Quite a bit has been said about hybrid vehicles, particularly about the reduced sound output of their engines. Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) weighs in with a report that suggests the incidence of collisions between hybrid vehicles and cyclists/pedestrians is higher than that between internal combustion engine vehicles and cyclists/pedestrians.
The study is available as a PDF.
A few findings from the study:
- Pedestrian and bicyclist crashes involving vehicles commonly occurred on roadways, in zones with low speed limits, during daytime and in clear weather.
- Crashes are more likely to occur between hybrids and bicycles vs. combustion engines and bicycles in situations where the car is slowing or stopping, backing up, or entering or leaving a parking space.
- Bicyclist crashes involving hybrid vehicles at intersections or interchanges were significantly higher when compared to vehicles with internal combustion engines.
- The sample size was fairly limited, but large enough to create a statistically significant sample.
Some hybrid and electric vehicles are trying to bridge the gap by creating artificial sound generators for the engines to make them sound a bit more like traditional combustion engines — although generally with lower volume. And there’s no denying that the reduced output of hybrid/electric vehicles is far nicer to perch behind at a stop or a light.
The study definitely re-emphasizes the importance of using your ears on the road to increase your safety factors — but to reinforce with visual cues as much as possible. Drivers of any vehicle also need to display caution when parking, pulling out, stopping, or accelerating.