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Pedestrians Twice as Likely to Be Hit by Electric Cars Versus Gas-Powered Ones
  • Posted May 22, 2024

Pedestrians Twice as Likely to Be Hit by Electric Cars Versus Gas-Powered Ones

Many people have been caught by surprise when an electric-powered car has smoothly and silently crept up on them as they walked.

But such an accident can pose a very serious risk to life and limb, and pedestrians might be twice as likely to be hit by an electric or hybrid car than a gas-powered vehicle, researchers reported May 21 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

It's even more risky in urban areas, with people there more than three times as likely to be hit by an electric car compared to a gas-powered model, researchers found.

"Drivers of electric or hybrid-electric cars must be cautious of pedestrians who may not hear them approaching and may step into the road thinking it is safe to do so, particularly in towns and cities,"said the team led by Phil Edwards, an epidemiologist with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

"The greater risk to pedestrian safety posed by electric or hybrid-electric cars needs to be mitigated as governments proceed to phase out petrol and diesel cars,"the researchers wrote.

Traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young people, researchers said, adding that pedestrians represent 1 in 4 traffic deaths.

To study the potential added risk from electric vehicles, researchers analyzed UK data from 2013 to 2017 on pedestrian deaths and types of vehicles involved in such accidents.

During that period, more than 120,000 British pedestrians died in a traffic collision, with more than 96,000 hit by a car or taxi.

Three-quarters of pedestrians (74%) had been hit by a gas-powered vehicle, compared with just 2% by electric or hybrid cars -- not surprising, given how much more popular gas vehicles remain.

But after taking into account number of miles driven, researchers found that electric and hybrid cars posed a much greater risk to pedestrians than gas vehicles.

Average annual casualty rates for pedestrians were more than 5 deaths per 100 million miles of road travel for electric cars, compared to just under 2 and a half deaths per 100 million miles for gas-powered cars.

That means that collisions with pedestrians are twice as likely for electric cars as gas-powered ones, researchers concluded.

"More pedestrians are injured in Great Britain by petrol and diesel cars than by electric cars, but compared with petrol and diesel cars, electric cars pose a greater risk to pedestrians and the risk is greater in urban environments,"the team wrote.

The results also showed no increased risk in rural areas from electric cars, but a tripled risk in urban locales.

"One plausible explanation for our results is that background ambient noise levels differ between urban and rural areas, causing electric vehicles to be less audible to pedestrians in urban areas,"the researchers suggested in a journal news release.

"From a public health perspective, our results should not discourage active forms of transport beneficial to health, such as walking and cycling,"the team concluded. "Rather, they can be used to ensure that any potential increased traffic injury risks are understood and safeguarded against."

More information

The Governors Highway Safety Association has more on pedestrian traffic fatalities in the United States.

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, May 21, 2024

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