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Pedestrians ‘twice as likely’ to be hit by an electric or hybrid-electric car

Researchers behind Road Safety Data analysis suggest silent nature of electric cars may pose a new challenge for road safety
Pedestrians wait at a crossing as traffic drives past at night.

Pedestrians are twice as likely to be hit by an electric or hybrid-electric car than a petrol or diesel car, according to an analysis of data on collisions in Great Britain.

The study, carried out by researchers at the 鶹ý (LSHTM), analysed Road Safety Data (STATS19) datasets which hold all reports of pedestrians injured by collisions with cars or taxis in Great Britain between 2013 and 2017.

The analysis found that out of the 96,285 pedestrians who had been hit by a car or taxi 74% (71,666) were hit by a petrol or diesel vehicle and 2% (1,652) were hit by an electric or hybrid-electric vehicle. The propulsion of vehicles involved in the other 24% (22,829) of collisions was not recorded.

The researchers calculated the average annual casualty rates of pedestrians per 100 million miles for electric or hybrid-electric cars/taxis was 5.16 and for petrol or diesel cars/taxis was 2.40, showing that electric or hybrid-electric vehicle collisions with pedestrians were on average twice as likely. Pedestrian collisions with electric or hybrid-electric vehicles were shown to be even more likely in urban environments (2.5 times as likely as with petrol or diesel cars/taxis).

The research is published in the .

Electric cars are thought to pose a higher risk to pedestrians because they are quieter than petrol or diesel cars, so pedestrians do not hear them approaching in time to react and avoid a collision.

Phil Edwards, Professor of Epidemiology & Statistics at LSHTM and lead author of the paper, said: "Given the damaging impacts of air pollution from petrol and diesel cars, overall electric cars are almost certainly better for our health, but our research shows that more needs to be done to reduce the risk they pose to pedestrians, particularly in noisy urban environments.

"Over the years there have been concerted government-sponsored efforts to improve road safety in the UK, whether that’s through making wearing seatbelts mandatory or road safety campaigns such as ‘Stop, Look, Listen, Think’. With electric cars replacing petrol and diesel cars on Britain’s road we should consider if similar public information campaigns, or new technologies such as autonomous emergency braking, are needed to improve pedestrian safety around electric cars."

Siobhan Moore, co-author of the paper and who worked on the research as an MSc Public Health student at LSHTM, said: "Ensuring the safety of pedestrians needs to be prioritised as we navigate the important transition toward electric vehicles on our roads. The silent nature of electric cars poses a new challenge for road safety, and we must consider measures to protect vulnerable road users."

Publication

Edwards PJ, Moore S, Higgins C.. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. doi: 10.1136/jech-2024-221902.

Image credit: , Flickr.

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