June 20, 2024


An analysis of British road traffic accidents in a recent study concluded that battery electric vehicles and hybrids are significantly more likely to strike pedestrians than gas or diesel vehicles. According to data compiled from 32 billion miles of BEV and HEV travel and over 3 trillion miles traveled in gas and diesel vehicles, the study showed that in extra-urban environments the electric-powered cars basically just as likely to hit walking humans as internal combustion cars, though they were three times more likely to do so in the city. There are probably a few contributing factors here, but it’s still pretty wild to see this massive spread in running down folks between the two groups.

There isn’t any hard and fast rule that explains this phenomenon, but using some logic we can likely determine what’s going on here. For one thing, particularly in the UK, EVs and Hybrids are significantly more likely to travel into city centers, where the pedestrians are. For another, EVs and Hybrids are increasingly likely to be purchased by younger and less experienced drivers.

Another major factor is that cars traveling on battery power are much quieter than gas or diesel vehicles, even with companies installing pedestrian warning systems that make noise at low speeds. In my own anecdotal experience, these artificial sounds emanating from EVs and hybrids are harder to aurally pinpoint speed and distance. I might hear one without looking up and think it’s ten or fifteen feet away, when really it’s right beside me.

“Electric cars are a hazard to pedestrians because they are less likely to be heard than petrol or diesel cars,” Phil Edwards, first author on the study and professor of epidemiology and statistics at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine told The Guardian. “The government needs to mitigate these risks if they are going to phase out the sale of petrol and diesel cars.”

“If you’re moving to an electric car, remember it’s a new kind of vehicle,” Edwards continued. “They are much quieter than the old-fashioned cars, and pedestrians have learned to navigate roads by listening for traffic. Drivers of these vehicles need to be extra cautious.”

The study focused on road accident data in the country from 2013 to 2017, the most recent years available. The analysis included 916,713 car crash casualties, of which around 13 percent were pedestrians. Around a quarter of pedestrian casualties were as a result of being hit by a battery-powered car. Considering the number of miles travelled by gas and diesel cars is significantly higher, a quarter of all pedestrian crashes is a giant number.

If you’re out there in an EV or hybrid, just remember that you are moving quietly through the world. This goes for everyone, no matter what kind of car you drive, you’re in a cage and pedestrians are fleshy meat-based Gundams for a tiny little brain pilot, and there isn’t much that they’re impervious to. Even if a pedestrian is mildly inconveniencing you, crossing the street illegally or looking down at their phone, don’t hit pedestrians.

A version of this article originally appeared on Jalopnik.



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