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Transportation Technology

Hybrids Safer In Crashes — Except For Pedestrians 392

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Hybrid vehicles are safer than their conventional counterparts when it comes to shielding their occupants from injuries in crashes with the odds of being injured in a crash 25 percent lower for people in hybrids than people traveling in comparable non-hybrid vehicles. "Weight is a big factor," says Matt Moore, of the Highway Loss Data Institute. 'Hybrids on average are 10 percent heavier than their standard counterparts. This extra mass gives them an advantage in crashes that their conventional twins don't have.' The study's findings are good news for green-minded drivers who are also looking for safety in their cars, but it's worth noting that hybrid vehicles are much quieter than gas-powered cars, posing a risk to pedestrians. "When hybrids operate in electric-only mode, pedestrians can't hear them approaching," says Moore. Earlier this year, Congress gave the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration three years to come up with a requirement for equipping hybrids and electric models with sounds to alert unsuspecting pedestrians."
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Hybrids Safer In Crashes — Except For Pedestrians

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  • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @09:42AM (#38115848)

    They did, all bycicles in my country are required to have a bell.

  • by lochnessie ( 1291986 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @09:53AM (#38115910)
    The motivation behind this is not to protect oblivious smartphone users, but for people with visual impairments who have traditionally relied on engine noise to identify approaching vehicles at low speed. The smartphone users will still be in danger, because they're invariably wearing headphones too.
  • by Assmasher ( 456699 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:05AM (#38115974) Journal

    ...for example - unless my father is really stepping on it, his Subaru is silent of engine noise from more than 10 feet away. You can hear his tires and the airflow over the body when he's farther away - but not the engine. Hell, I have a friend whose Lexus I can't tell is running or not unless I put my hand on the hood.

    This whole "silent cars are killers" thing seems a little ridiculous. If this was a chronic issue, we'd already be suffering an ever growing deluge of pedestrian casualties in the ERs of the world since there are so many quiet combustion powered cars.

  • Re:weight and safety (Score:3, Informative)

    by wagnerrp ( 1305589 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:31PM (#38116862)

    As well, there are common traffic situations where visibility doesn't really help yet size hurts. Say a car suddenly cuts into your lane. You either swerve and rollover, or step on the breaks, and guess what, because of your increased mass you cannot stop in time and run into the car in front of you. This is yet another way in which driving a larger car increases the chances of injury.

    You missed one. You step on the gas to clip their rear quarter as they come over, destabilizing them, and putting them into the wall. After all, just because you're driving slow in the left lane doesn't give someone the right to pass you.

  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:49PM (#38116996)

    From the linked study's abstract:

    This study found that pedestrian and bicyclist crashes involving both HEVs and ICE vehicles commonly occurred on roadways, in zones with low
    speed limits, during daytime and in clear weather, with higher incidence rates for HEVs when compared to ICE vehicles. A variety of crash factors
    were examined to determine the relative incidence rates of HEVs versus ICE vehicles in a range of crash scenarios. For one group of scenarios,
    those in which a vehicle is slowing or stopping, backing up, or entering or leaving a parking space, a statistically significant effect was found due to
    engine type. The HEV was two times more likely to be involved in a pedestrian crash in these situations than was an ICE vehicle. Vehicle
    maneuvers such as slowing or stopping, backing up, or entering or leaving a parking space, were grouped in one category based on that these
    maneuvers are potentially have occurred at very low speeds where the difference between the sound levels produced by the hybrid versus ICE
    vehicle is the greatest. In future analysis with a larger sample size, it would be ideal to investigate each of these maneuvers individually.
    Incidence rate of pedestrian crashes in scenarios when vehicles make a turn was significantly higher for HEVs when compared to ICE vehicles.
    There was no statistically significant difference in incidence rate of pedestrian crashes involving HEVs when compared to ICE vehicles when both
    type of vehicles were going straight.

    My interpretation is that when the cars are going straight ahead there is enough noise (tire, wind?) such that pedestrians don't get whacked - but when a car is creeping along, like a turn or parking maneuver, pedestrians can't always hear them. I don't think a car making some noise when at low speed would be a terrible contribution to noise pollution. It doesn't have to be the "BEEP BEEP BEEP" that trucks make when backing up.

  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:52PM (#38117032)

    You have it completely wrong. The linked study showed that pedestrians are not injured when cars are going straight ahead. The injuries occurred when cars are parking, turning, and making other low-speed passes through pedestrian areas. In all likelihood, it is just as much the driver not paying attention as it is the pedestrian.

  • Re:mahna-mahna (Score:5, Informative)

    by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @05:34PM (#38119118) Homepage

    The problem with EVs isn't as bad as some people make out though since much of the noise is from the tyres on the road and air being forced aside; the engine contributes relatively little.

    In traffic, maybe. But I don't think this is necessarily about people crossing at the light at a crosswalk at a busy intersection.

    I live in a city, where there's a lot of ambient noise. That city is San Francisco, where, as you can imagine, there are a lot of hybrid cars. And I can tell you, while not being elevated in my mind quite to the level of "cause for concern" just yet, quiet cars can be a problem.

    I live on a predominantly residential street, where people have their cars in garages with very short driveways that cross the public sidewalk. The sound a combustion engine makes when it's backing out of a garage at low speed is very much more noticeable than the more-or-less complete silence of a hybrid engine. If, as you're walking along, you were fussing with your shopping bags, or tugging on your dog's leash, or looking over your shoulder to see if the bus is coming, it would be very easy to get run over by a hybrid car without ever realizing it was coming.

    Hybrid cars also round streetcorners in front of you when you're preparing to cross the street. Some of the cross-streets on the street I live on are one-way, single-lane streets, on hills, with a building right on the corner. It's very easy to be surprised by a car making a lefthand turn as you're walking up the road -- even more so if the car doesn't make any noise.

    The problem isn't a crisis, but it really is about more than just accommodating "stupid people," or handicapped people who can't hear at normal levels. Regular people can very easily miss a hybrid car coming.

    Also, I think some of the people who scoff at this idea live in parts of America where you're essentially wedded to your car. There are many cities, however -- San Francisco, Boston, Portland, New York, Seattle -- where a lot of people, or even a majority, don't rely on a car for most of their travel. That means they spend at least part of their day on foot or on a bike on public streets. In New York and San Francisco, lots of people don't even own cars. So maybe you're not likely to get run down by a hybrid car every day, but if you're on the street every day, all year long... it could happen.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson