Study finds hybrid cars are safer in crashes

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A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found hybrid cars are safer in crashes than normal ones. Photo Credit: CEFICEFI/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Newly released research from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety indicates that hybrid cars are safer in crashes than their conventional counterparts. The study suggests that the lower incidence of injury is due to hybrid cars being heavier.

Greater heft credited for greater safety

A recently released study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety asserts hybrid cars are safer than traditional cars in crashes, according to MSNBC. The study’s authors found incidence of bodily injuries in crashes were 25 percent lower in hybrid cars than in all-gas fueled cars. The authors credit that to hybrids being 10 percent heavier, on average, than comparable all-gas models. The study examined only models offered in traditional and hybrid configurations, according to the Washington Post.

Bigger is better for safety

There are other factors influencing crash data such as who is driving and how the car is being driven. However, the IIHS says it has controlled for those.

According to the press release on the IIHS website, it’s down to simple physics; a heavy car will protect the occupants better than a light one. Hybrid cars have electric motors, batteries and other additional equipment. The Honda Accord hybrid outweighs the standard Accord by almost 500 pounds and the 4,500 pound Toyota Highlander hybrid outweighs the standard Highlander by more than 300 pounds.

Except for pedestrians

However, there is a corollary to the findings, in that hybrid cars were also credited with a higher incidence of crashing into pedestrians. Hybrid vehicles were observed by the IIHS to have a 20 percent greater chance of striking a pedestrian, according to the Washington Post, especially during turning. Hybrid and electric vehicles operate under electric power at low speeds. This makes them harder for pedestrians to hear.

Noise device forthcoming

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has three years to come up with a device or specifications for a warning sound device to be installed in hybrid and electric vehicles, thanks to the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010. According to AutoBlog, a pedestrian warning sound system is already offered on several cars including the Infiniti M35h and the Chevrolet Volt.

Ford, according to AutoWeek, is currently letting people vote on Facebook for which electric vehicle warning sound they like best, as the company is trying to come up with the best warning sound to install on the Focus Electric. The winner will not necessarily be installed on the electric Focus, but Ford is trying to narrow down what works the best.

Sources

MSNBC

IIHS

Washington Post

AutoBlog

AutoWeek

Ford electric warning page on Facebook

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