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Electric Vehicles More Likely To Hit People Than Gas Vehicles

Key Takeaways

  • Electric vehicles are nearly silent, posing a hazard to pedestrians who may not hear them coming, resulting in more accidents than gas vehicles.
  • Studies show hybrid and electric cars hit twice as many pedestrians as gas vehicles mile-for-mile, especially at low speeds like turns and stops.
  • The NHTSA mandates that EVs make noise at slow speeds to alert pedestrians, emphasizing the need for awareness by both pedestrians and drivers.

Electric vehicles are increasingly common despite an overall slowdown in sales. This has automakers delaying vehicles and pushing back their plans to go fully electric, but people are still buying EVs, just at a slower rate than before. That’s great news for the environment as it reduces tailpipe emissions, but it isn’t such great news for pedestrians.

As reported by The Guardian, electric cars hit more pedestrians than gas vehicles. The difference between the two isn’t small, either. Data shows that mile-for-mile, electric and hybrid vehicles hit twice as many pedestrians as gas vehicles.


Most Pedestrian Collisions Happen At Low Speed

It’s not that people driving these vehicles aren’t good drivers, although EV drivers skew young in the UK, but that these vehicles are too quiet. “Electric cars are a hazard to pedestrians because they are less likely to be heard than petrol or diesel cars,” said Phil Edwards, first author on the study and professor of epidemiology and statistics at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

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This is not just an issue in the UK. The US Department of Transportation also found that electric and hybrid vehicles pose a 20% higher risk to pedestrians than gas vehicles and has proposed new minimum sound requirements for these vehicles. The risk is at its highest, not in highway driving but at low speeds. Making a turn, backing up, or starting out from a traffic light or stop sign are the types of situations where pedestrians are likely to be hit.

Electric G-Class Feature First Look-1

America Has EV Sound Rules, But More Is Required

While there are lots of potential reasons, the biggest is that people simply don’t hear electric vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has rules regarding the sounds every EV must make at low speeds, and while there’s some flexibility in exactly what sound is made, it has to make some noise to alert pedestrians when it’s moving. The idea is that at higher speeds, the wind noise and tire noise are enough of an alert. In the move toward electrification, pedestrians need to be more aware of quiet electric vehicles, and drivers need to be extra sure no one is stepping into the road before they drive away or back up. That said, this study shows that there is still clearly more to be done to prevent accidents.


Safest Electric Cars of 2024

Source: Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, via The Guardian

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