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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 Snard ( 61584 ) <mike.shawaluk@gm ... m minus language> on Sunday November 20, 2011 @09:36AM (#38115818) Homepage

    ... The fact that hybrids are being labeled "dangerous to pedestrians" because they don't make noise to warn people to jump out of the way when they are jaywalking or texting/surfing on their phone while they are crossing the street.

    I'm surprised that someone hasn't required noisemakers on bicycles for the same reason.

  • weight and safety (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alphatel ( 1450715 ) * on Sunday November 20, 2011 @09:37AM (#38115826)
    IIHS also found SUVs to be safer due to weight advantage []. This study only looks at crashes and neglects the fact that lighter vehicles tend to stop faster and have better turn radius, which helps to prevent them from getting into accidents in the first place.
  • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @09:38AM (#38115834)

    Heavy cars are safer for the ones sitting in them. But most crashes involve two vehicles, and the lighter one will get the majority of the damage. A 'weight arms race' is not safety.

  • by tenco ( 773732 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @09:42AM (#38115850)
    cars are a lot more lethal in a crash than bicycles.
  • by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @09:47AM (#38115882)

    Every time I hear or read about people demanding that electric cars somehow make unnecessary noises I get a little annoyed. One of the great things about electric cars (beyond not running on fossil fuel) is that they don't contribute to noise pollution.

    This wouldn't be a problem if people just paid a little attention before crossing the street, I've never been hit by a car even though I frequently listen to music while walking or riding my bicycle (not counting the time I was drunk and not paying attention, but that was all my own fault and luckily I wasn't injured beyond a few bruises).

    I just don't get what is so hard about not randomly walking out into the middle of the street without first checking that there aren't any vehicles headed your way

  • A lot of pedestrians are walking around listening to their music at full-blast and have no chance of hearing the car coming anyways. The fault does not belong to the car in that situation.
  • Re:mahna-mahna (Score:5, Insightful)

    by realityimpaired ( 1668397 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @09:58AM (#38115934)

    What makes you think they'd pay you for the privilege? They'll just follow the current trend in the fashion industry, and treat you like a billboard, and charge you extra for the privilege of advertising for them....

  • by realityimpaired ( 1668397 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:00AM (#38115942)

    Smart people ( a set in which you are not included ) use bells on their bicycles,
    whether for the purpose of warning pedestrians or warning bears.

    Stupid people use them too, largely because in this country, it's a $145 fine for not having a bell on your bicycle if the police catch you. It's a lot to pay for want of a $3 bell and a few minutes' work installing it, and anybody who didn't flunk grade 6 math shouldn't have too hard a time figuring out that buying the bell is better economy....

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:01AM (#38115948)
    I confronted an SUV driver online about this once. He explained that he was well aware that in an accident, the SUV was the most dangerous car for occupents of the other vehicle, and that in choosing to drive one for safety he was willingly endangering others for his own protection. He went on to brand me a socialist and claim that it was his duty to protect his own family, even if that meant endangering others to whome he owed no loyalty.

    I hope that if he does have a car accident, the *other* driver thought exactly the same way.
  • by realityimpaired ( 1668397 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:06AM (#38115976)

    Dangerous to pedestrians? Come on. I don't have a hybrid, and I don't worry about not hearing them, because I actually listened when I was taught to look both ways before crossing!

    That's easier to do when you're not visually impaired or blind. When your usable visual range is about 3 feet beyond which everything is a blur, you can get around in your daily life without a helper animal, but if you can't hear a car coming and can't see it more than 3 feet away.... this is why crosswalks have audible signals in cities. Stick to the crosswalk, right? What if you live in the suburbs and there aren't any crosswalks?

  • Misleading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slasho81 ( 455509 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:11AM (#38116006)
    If hybrid cars are safer because they're heavier, it's misleading saying that hybrid is safer. It should be said that heavier is safer.
  • by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:14AM (#38116024) Homepage
    It must be very annoying to drive your bicycle with the bell constantly ringing
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:25AM (#38116068)

    That confrontation is an awesome account of pretty much everything that's wrong with the US right now--the "I've got mine, so screw you!" attitude. Of course, it must be peppered in with incorrect usages of the word "socialism" because it just helps the concerted campaign to demonize the term while simultaneously never using it correctly. I'm sure the person you were debating with had his on-board entertainment system permanently fixed to Fox News too.

  • by smellotron ( 1039250 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:27AM (#38116076)

    This wouldn't be a problem if people just paid a little attention before crossing the street

    You are making the assumption that pedestrian collisions are caused by the inattention of pedestrians. Assholes in hybrids will continue to roll through right-turns-on-red, ignore (or race) pedestrians already crossing, dart around between lanes for a single-car "advantage", zip through small neighborhood streets at 50mph, etc. In all of those situations, there is a defensive advantage because of sound. If that advantage goes away, the assholes just get more dangerous.

    Hmm.. Come to think of it, the police can solve most this by enforcing existing traffic laws. Once they start doing that, then I'll be in favor of reducing the noise pollution that cars make. In the meantime, they appear to split their time between catching speeders and only the grossest of safety violators, and I'll take the noise pollution over death.

  • by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:34AM (#38116098)

    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.

    Then by the same logic, why haven't all road-legal vehicles been required to have rotating warning lights, strobes, or a similar visual warning system?

    Why does the government hate deaf people? Is it because they can't hear the political speeches and must read them, therefor fixing more firmly in their minds the memory of the promises a politician makes and then breaks?

    I probably shouldn't go giving the politicians any ideas, or parents will need $1,500 worth of required and certified safety strobes, flashers, and running lights for their kid's Big Wheel. The only licensed/certified maker, of course, would be owned by a recent departee from whatever administration is in power.


  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:43AM (#38116164) Homepage

    Yep. We need pedestrians to adapt to the cars, not the other way around.

    It's a ROAD. Try opening your fucking eyes...

  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:50AM (#38116204) Homepage

    Literally one week ago I was hit on my bike by a car when I was crossing a crosswalk. I had the right-of-way, I was in the crosswalk, and I was fucking visible. I was not in violation of anything when I was crossing that street. But this SUV zooms up, sees their red light and tries to suddenly change plans and make a fast right instead of waiting for their light to change and going straight like the "body language" of the vehicle was advertising, and them I'm in the way because the driver's doing shit I don't expect and which goes against what they're SUPPOSED to do when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk, and they hit me and I go down, and end up on my back staring at headlights.

    "Zooming SUV"? I assume it was making a noise....probably a huge four or five liter size noise.

    Please explain to us how a hybrid have been more dangerous. Maybe it wasn't the type of car that caused the problem, it was the driver. Maybe we should deal with the real problem, not the imagined problem.

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

    by Bengie ( 1121981 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:50AM (#38116210)

    Badger badger badger ...

    "pedestrians can't hear them approaching"

    Blind and deaf, that's impressive. Should one be walking around with that kind of disability combo?

  • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:50AM (#38116212) Homepage

    it was his duty to protect his own family,

    then why is he driving a car whose chances of rolling over are orders of magnitude higher than a regular sedan?

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:52AM (#38116222)

    The problem around here is that cyclists don't get issued citations except on rare occasions and since they don't have license plates good luck reporting them to the police. They're supposed to adhere to the normal rules that apply to other vehicles on the road but generally don't. And they regularly don't comply with the minimum speed limit regulations creating an unsafe situation for everybody involved when people have to drive along at a crawl and figure out how to pass.

    And yes, that's illegal in all 50 states, you can't impede the flow of traffic. It's just not a ticket that's often issued.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:55AM (#38116242)

    I take it you aren't blind and don't know anybody that's blind. The reason for this mandate is because pedestrians need all the help they can get to locate potential hazards. Seeing and hearing a car is vastly superior to just hearing it or just seeing it.

    And yes, I do look both ways, but that doesn't mean that I have eyes on the back of my head, so if I'm nearly half way into the lane as I cross the street, I can't necessarily see the car behind me that thinks it's OK to take a sudden right turn.

  • by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:57AM (#38116256)

    You can hear electric cars just fine if you actually pay attention to your surroundings (doubly so if we get rid of the majority of loud combustion engine-powered cars). I definitely hear when an electric car approaches if I'm not listening to music, at it sounds nothing like a bicycle btw (just in case someone feels the need to claim otherwise).

    Just because everyone is used to cars being loud as hell doesn't mean it's a good thing.

  • by ironjaw33 ( 1645357 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:24AM (#38116424)

    I remember at least two incidents where I've nearly been hit by a hybrid while I was crossing an intersection (two different intersections in completely different towns). In both cases, the property owners adjacent to the intersecting road had erected a hedge or fence right up against the road. This is illegal because you can't see, but plenty of property owners do it just the same. Because I couldn't see unless I stepped into the road, I listened for oncoming cars first. Hearing nothing, I proceeded to walk into the intersection where I was nearly mauled. Since I was paying attention, I was able to jump out of the way just in time.

    It's more than not paying attention, it's that everyone has to realize that hearing can't be relied upon to tell whether or not a vehicle is approaching. I've learned my lesson and remember that when I'm crossing a street that I might not be able to hear what's coming.

  • by frdmfghtr ( 603968 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:27AM (#38116440)

    it was his duty to protect his own family,

    then why is he driving a car whose chances of rolling over are orders of magnitude higher than a regular sedan?

    To play Devil's Advocate, there is a rational reason for doing so.

    There is an elevated risk of rollover with an SUV, which I can mitigate as a driver by changing my driving style, and driving more defensively. A SUV helps me drive defensively by increasing visibility around me. Those are factors that I, as a driver, can control. However, I can't control what other drivers will do or the type of vehicle that will hit mine in an accident. Therefore, to mitigate that risk, I'll drive a larger vehicle that will provide more protection in an accident. Two problems are solved here.

    To go the opposite, way, driving a smaller car to manage the rollover risk decreases my ability to drive defensively (lower visibility) and decreases my chances of survival in a collision. One problem is solved, and another made potentially worse.

  • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:45AM (#38116550) Homepage

    To play Devil's Advocate, there is a rational reason for doing so.

    I think you give the "bigger-is-safer" brainwashed drivers out there too much credit. I drive a sedan and a SUV and I can tell that the visibility thing is mostly a myth: you can't see past a minivan on either. This might have been true at some point,when big cars were few and far between but in this day and age SUVs give very little actual increased visibility. What people think is increased visibility really only means being able to stare down the normal size sedan right next to you.

    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.

    The safest car is neither the biggest nor the smallest. It's one in which the engineers right-sized the brakes to the mass of the car, given it a responsive car suspension (hint: most large SUV were built on pickup-truck platforms), has good factory installed tires (ford explorer any one?), put a proper cage around the passenger compartment and don't burst into flames upon impact.

    Where is size in all of that?

  • by ilo.v ( 1445373 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:00PM (#38116666)

    Yep. We need pedestrians to adapt to the cars, not the other way around. It's a ROAD. Try opening your fucking eyes...

    I completely agree. In return, your car should stay off the pedestrian paths. Good luck getting anywhere more a few hundred feet in my city without being blocked by a crosswalk. Even with lights and pedestrian signals, you are still going to cross my pedestrian cross walk when I have the green walk light (your right and left turns) You need to go back to preschool and learn how to share.

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

    by RoFLKOPTr ( 1294290 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:41PM (#38116934)

    That's why you LOOK where you're going before you stupidly step into the street.

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

    by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:57PM (#38117068) Homepage

    You can only be young once.

    But you can be immature forever.

  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @01:18PM (#38117212) Homepage Journal

    A bicycle moves 15 MPH, not 60 MPH.

    A bicycle + rider weighs 200 pounds, not 2,000 pounds.

    A bicycle rider will be seriously injured by a collision with a pedestrian. A driver won't, and isn't looking as closely for them, especially when they're not expecting them.

  • by oursland ( 1898514 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:01PM (#38117880)
    So your solution to the problem that "people don't look before crossing the road" is that they'll have to look at a device before crossing a road?
  • Re:mahna-mahna (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:40PM (#38118180) Homepage Journal

    You don't seem to know a lot about reducing the risk of injury to a normal human being. Unfortunately our senses are not perfect, sometimes we miss things or are distracted and forget to look. Audio cues help prevent mistakes turning into accidents and have been shown to be very effective. Emergency vehicle sirens, for example, have been improved so that they give drivers some idea of the direction the vehicle is approaching from.

    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. We have an opportunity here to develop sounds that make people take notice rather than the default noise a petrol engine makes, and the person inside the car need not hear it.

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

    by robot256 ( 1635039 ) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:35PM (#38118652)

    Because when I think "manly", "make my penis bigger", and "attract women" I think of a little rinky dink eco-friendly compact car....

    It just depends on what kind of women you want to attract. If you want to attract shallow, vain women who flock after rich men with fancy cars, then no, you don't want a hybrid. If, on the other hand, you want to attract shallow, vain women who flock after trendy urbanites up on the latest fads, then yes, you do want a hybrid. If you want to attract women who aren't shallow or vain, try finding ones that don't care what kind of car you drive.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears