Running on Silent: Hybrid Vehicle Safety Concerns

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a study that found that a driver of a hybrid vehicle is 25 percent less likely to be injured in a crash than driver of a conventional vehicle. Couple these statistics with the money drivers save on gasoline and a hybrid seems like the best choice. While hybrids are by far the safer choice for drivers, they’re far more dangerous for the greenest travelers of all, pedestrians and cyclists. In this post, Gregg S. Marcus, a Long Island Insurance Executive looks into the hidden dangers of hybrid vehicles.

When hybrid cars are in electric mode, they are near silent and can’t be heard coming. Visually impaired pedestrians or those who step into the street without taking a look for cars first are in much more danger of being struck than with louder, standard vehicles. In fact, fuel-efficient vehicles are 20 percent more likely to be involved in an accident with a pedestrian than a standard car. The National Federation for the Blind has called for quiet vehicles to emit a continuous sound and for additional research on the subject. They suggest that older individuals with diminished sensory and motor skills should also be considered as solutions are developed.

Hybrid car manufacturers have started reacting to this new threat by adding artificial sounds to hybrid vehicles to warn pedestrians. The Nissan Leaf EV now makes “wooshing” sounds despite its near silent engine, and Ford has polled Facebook users to vote on which artificial engine noise their new car should make from a series of potential noises on YouTube. The noises ranged from more traditional engine sounds to futuristic spaceship noises. These fake engine noises are still being rolled out so they may not stick around since reactions appear to be mixed.

Hybrid cars are also about 10 percent heavier on average, being more durable in a crash. For example, the hybrid Honda Accord sedan weighs as much as 480 lbs more than a standard Accord, and a hybrid Toyota Highlander weighs about 330 lbs more than its counterpart. This difference in vehicle weight also creates a greater risk to other drivers in a crash. After an impact, smaller cars are sent backward with much more force than heavier vehicles, making it more likely for the passengers of a smaller car to be injured.

Are you a hybrid driver? How do you feel about your vehicle? If you have had near misses with pedestrians or cyclists, please leave a comment below. Gregg S. Marcus would love to hear you opinion on this topic.

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