Pedestrians, you have 3 times more risk of accident with electric cars

The growing commitment to environmental sustainability and concerns about greenhouse gas emissions are also pushing consumers toward greener options. Car buyers are therefore opting for hybrid or electric vehicles to reduce their carbon footprint, but also save on fuel costs. These cars offer better fuel efficiency, tax incentives, good driving comfort, and parking and toll benefits in some regions. Additionally, battery technology is improving, increasing range and reducing costs. However, these vehicles are not perfect. A study on accidentology has recently demonstrated that battery cars are more dangerous than thermal cars for pedestrians, but how can we explain this?

Electric vs thermal cars: which ones are better to cross on the road for pedestrians?

A British study published on May 21, 2024 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health analyzed accidents involving electric, hybrid and thermal cars (petrol and diesel). The researchers, led by Phil Edwards of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, examined 916,713 road accident victims in the UK between 2013 and 2017, including 120,197 pedestrians. Added to this are data from 51.5 billion kilometers traveled in an electric car and 4.8 billion kilometers in a thermal car.

As thermal cars are increasingly numerous these days, they had higher numbers of accidents in volume. Over the period studied, approximately three quarters of the 96,000 pedestrians knocked down by a car or a taxi were thus by a car equipped with a diesel or gasoline engine against only two percent (around 1,700 accidents involving pedestrians being struck) with battery-powered vehiclesall with a majority of incidents occurring in metropolitan areas.

However, the trends are suddenly reversed when we relate accidents to kilometers traveled. The rate then becomes largely unfavorable to electric or hybrid cars which then appear much more dangerous. Indeed, for identical kilometers, the accident rate for electric cars is twice as high, all areas combined (urban and rural). In urban areas, electric and hybrid cars are even three times more likely to hit pedestrians than gasoline or diesel vehicles. The average annual rate of accidents involving pedestrians for battery-powered vehicles is thus ultimately 5.16 per 100 million miles traveled (around 160 million kilometers) compared to only 2.40 for thermal vehicles.

Credits: ViktoriiaNovokhatska/iStock

How to explain such results?

Although the study does not clearly identify the reasons for such discrepancies, it considers some avenues. First of all, the researchers explain that electric cars are more widely favored by young, potentially less experienced drivers behind the wheel. Furthermore, they think that battery vehicles being quieter, it can be more difficult to hear them, especially in urban areas where ambient noise makes them even less audible. “ Electric cars pose a danger to pedestrians because they are less likely to be heard than gasoline or diesel cars », Compares Phil Edwards, the main author of the study and professor of epidemiology and statistics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Finally, electric vehicles often have a mass greater than that of their thermal counterparts. The scientist therefore believes that “ the government must mitigate these risks if it wants to phase out thermal cars “.

Biased results

Due to an archiving problem with the database used, the scientists were unable to use the information here. that over the period extending from 2013 to 2017. These results are therefore reminiscent of another 2017 study reported this time by the American Department of Transportation. According to this old report, electric vehicles represented a 20% higher risk for pedestrians compared to thermal models and even 50% more in the case of travel at low speed (below 30 km/h).

However, since 2017, cars equipped with batteries have received notable improvements. Since 2019, it has been notably mandatory in the European Union for these vehicles to have a sound system. This will alert them to their presence at low speed, driving which is synonymous with more frequent accidents. A large part of them do not benefit from it, Phil Edwards nevertheless believes that it would be necessary retroactively equip it on older models. Until then, this statistician calls on all road users to be more vigilant. As he explains, “ pedestrians learned to navigate the roads by listening to traffic » and as this study reminds us, this does not always seem to be enough for everyone to share public space in complete safety.

Credits: Free-Photos/Pixabay

Electric cars or not: noises are poorly heard when coming from the rear

Let’s not forget that work has already shown that even noisier vehicles are not necessarily better heard by pedestrians, cyclists and drivers as long as the noise comes from behind, a phenomenon which can be explained by the make that the propagation of sound is uncorrelated with the speed of the object that emits it. This is why even with the window open, you may not realize that you are being overtaken until the other driver comes up to you. And with the ambient hubbub in townlistening carefully is not always enough to hear surrounding vehicles clearly.

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