Electric and hybrid cars are more dangerous for pedestrians than vehicles running on fossil fuel

A British study links the rate of accidents with the car noise that alerts people.

The rise in electric and hybrid vehicles on roads is beneficial for the environment, as these cars emit far fewer harmful pollutants.

However, a recent study conducted in the United Kingdom has identified a significant drawback: electric (EVs) and hybrid cars are more than twice as likely to hit pedestrians compared to their fossil-fuel counterparts, particularly in urban areas.

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Analyzing British traffic safety data from 2013 to 2017, researchers examined over 96,000 pedestrian accidents involving cars and taxis. While 74% of these accidents involved fossil fuel vehicles, only 2% involved electric or hybrid vehicles, reflecting the prevalence of traditional internal combustion engines.

However, when adjusted for the number of each type of vehicle on the road, electric and hybrid cars were found to be involved in pedestrian accidents at more than twice the rate of fossil fuel vehicles.

The research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, suggests that the quieter engines of eco-friendly vehicles contribute to this increased risk. In cities, the minimal noise EVs produce can easily be drowned out, making it difficult for pedestrians to detect their approach.

While regulations are increasingly requiring electric cars to emit sounds, it's uncertain if pedestrians recognize these artificial noises as indicators of oncoming traffic.

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The lead author of this study, Phil Edwards, a professor of epidemiology & statistics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said in a statement, "Given the damaging impacts of air pollution from petrol and diesel cars, overall electric cars are almost certainly better for our health, but our research shows that more needs to be done to reduce the risk they pose to pedestrians, particularly in noisy urban environments."

The researchers now intend to examine whether the age and driving experience of people driving electric and hybrid vehicles - to see if these factors have any impact on the rate of accidents.

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