By on November 10, 2009

Unless you're in Mexico! (courtesy:la.streetsblog.org)An NHTSA report [PDF] on the “Incidence of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Crashes by Hybrid Electric Passenger Vehicles,” concludes that hybrid-electrics (HEVs) have a higher incidence rate of pedestrian and bicyclist crashes than do internal combustion-only (ICE) vehicles in certain scenarios. And based on the report’s conclusions, it looks like the relative silence of hybrids running in electric-only mode is to blame for the higher accident numbers.

. . . pedestrian and bicyclist crashes involving both HEVs and ICE vehicles commonly occurred on roadways, in zones with low speed limits, during daytime and in clear weather, with higher incidence rates for HEVs when compared to ICE vehicles. A variety of crash factors were examined to determine the relative incidence rates of HEVs versus ICE vehicles in a range of crash scenarios. For one group of scenarios, those in which a vehicle is slowing or stopping, backing up, or entering or leaving a parking space, a statistically significant effect was found due to engine type. The HEV was two times more likely to be involved in a pedestrian crash in these situations than was an ICE vehicle. Vehicle maneuvers such as slowing or stopping, backing up, or entering or leaving a parking space, were grouped in one category based on that these maneuvers are potentially have occurred at very low speeds where the difference between the sound levels produced by the hybrid versus ICE vehicle is the greatest.

At speeds above 35 MPH, the statistical differences between the percentage of hybrids and ICE vehicles involved in pedestrian and cyclist crashes are insignificant. Below those speeds, and while engaging in the maneuvers described above, the statistical difference becomes clear. What this indicates is that the silence of electric drive vehicles is, statistically speaking, a safety issue. Expect this study to figure into ongoing efforts to pass legislation, like H.R. 734,  requiring sound standards for electric-drive vehicles.

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39 Comments on “NHTSA: Pedestrian and Cyclists Crash Rates Higher For Hybrids...”


  • avatar
    werewolf34

    Hybrids in parking lots are deadly. Time for some artificial noise makers on these things.

    • 0 avatar
      asapuntz

      Mandating white noise generators seem like an easy solution. White noise is relatively inoffensive, but highly directional according to a TV report I saw few years ago. In it, they demonstrated how effective it was for guiding people to exits in smoke-filled buildings.

      Can’t be that hard to figure out a minimum guideline. Or we can get fancy with a formula that’s a function of speed (tire, aero, drivetrain noise) and engine operation.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    Where/when is that horrible photo from?

  • avatar
    MasterOfTheJawan

    No shock. Hybrids are more common in urban driving scenerios ,,,where there are more also more cyclists/pedestrians.

  • avatar
    dmrdano

    I am both a fan of hybrids and a recumbent bike builder/rider.  I believe the accidents come from a couple of factors. 

    First, bicyclists (myself included) frequently do not pay enough attention to the traffic around them, foolishly and incorrectly assuming the drivers will be watching out for them.  Recumbent riders generally cannot turn their heads enough to see behind and must depend upon mirrors and ears (rhyme intentional).  Many road bikers lead with their heads and do not look around except when making major directional changes, thus being hit from behind when they swerve around parked cars.  Add in the fools who listen to their Ipods and you know what happens.  In the picture above, the bikers were also riding side by side rather than single file (pelleton style).

    The problem with hybrid cars is not just a matter of not making enough noise to be heard by the bikers.  The quiet is very, well, quiet!  It is not hard to let attention lapse and thus to endanger others around them.  Add to it the fact that many drivers believe (contrary to the law) that bikes do not belong on the street.  Any accident investigator will tell you that attitude plays a big role in contributing to accidents. 

    Many bikers and hybrid drivers share the common goal of reducing use of fossil fuel and living more intentionally.  Times are changing and both need to watch out for the other more carefully and the numbers of both are increasing.  (Bikers have the most to lose, so they had better take the lead.)

    • 0 avatar
      rm

      There’s quite a logical explanation for why the cyclists above weren’t riding single or double file: it was an organized race (in Mexico if I remember correctly) where the road was closed.

  • avatar
    AJ

    How ironic is that?!

  • avatar

    tparkit: http://la.streetsblog.org/2008/06/04/horrific-bike-crash-in-mexico-caused-by-drunk-american-driver/

  • avatar
    John Horner

    It was a year or more ago when I commented on this very problem on TTAC and some responders though I was crazy, communist, or both.
    Silent running cars in parking lots take away one of the cues pedestrians normally use as a warning. A car which can suddenly back out of a parking space at the grocery store without any visual or auditory warning is a real danger to the many pedestrians going in and out of the store. Drivers frequently back up without carefully checking for pedestrians, and sometimes the monster trucks parked around even a careful driver make it impossible to see.  At the very least, hybrids should make a back up warning sound similar to that required on some large trucks.
     

    As far as bike/car accidents, attitude problems abound on both sides of that street. Specialized Bikes is headquartered in my home town, and every lunch hour they are out on the local roads in vast numbers. This gang routinely ignores traffic safety devices like stop signs and stop lights, ride inattentively and aggressively and generally put many of the local car and truck drivers into a very unfriendly frame of mind. I’ve been cut off at intersections countless times by one or more agressive bike riders. Many of our local roads are poorly built with narrow lanes and no shoulders. This makes sharing the road between cars and bikes especially dangerous. The lack of concern for their own well-being exhibited by some of these bike riders always shocks me.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    That’s enough to put me off biking permanently.

  • avatar
    rpiotr01

    Reduced CO2 emissions and population control: an environmentalist’s wet dream!

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The safety Nazis cannot countenance pedestrians looking before stepping into traffic, so the government will order automakers to install a clothespin and baseball card in the spokes.

  • avatar
    El Cheapo

    I’m reminded of new driver class , wherein I was subjected to a pitiful, low-budget video from the early 70’s starring an Erkel-type guy “…give a little honk to this lad (cyclist) to let him know I’m here.”

    Flash forward 30 years to “honk if ya wanna instigate a fight”.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I don’t see why it’s the fault of the quiet hybrid.  They don’t have Klingon cloaking devices – they are still visible.   Cyclists and pedestrians need to watch what is going on.
    There is no law that says cars have to make noise.   Traditionally they have, but they aren’t required to do so.   Pay attention.  Watch.
    I could go along with back-up beepers, but there is no reason to saddle hybrids or EVs with noise makers when going forward.
    My guess is that the cyclist/pedestrian was in the wrong in the majority of these accidents.

  • avatar
    dmrdano

    Some have suggested backup alarms on all cars.  Since I live “downtown” and would hear them all night, I think that would be a bit much.  But having hybrids beep when backing up with the engine not running (at least) seems reasonable.  In the end, though, no one is going to watch your butt but you.  OK, so some of the butts I’ve seen on bikes do draw attention, but you get my drift.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    As a cyclist that has endured the shockwaves coming out of the tailpipes of numerous folks seeking to prop up their flacid self image by pummeling others with their exhaust systems and music (don’t get me wrong, I love a great exhaust rumble, just want some volume control) I really appreciate that hybrids, and Goldwings for that matter, go by so innocuously.

    Man, that is one freakin’ scary crash!

    Bunter

  • avatar
    AlexD

    @ John Horner.
    Good points. And I have a general car question now:  Why are car manufacturers increasingly making vehicles with absolutely no rear visibility whatsoever? I’m referring to CUVs of course, but I’ve been driving a (2 year old) Fusion for a week now and the deck lid curves upward effectively wiping out 30% of my view. Truly irritating.

  • avatar
    dmrdano

    Bunter1, that is a scary crash.  Having once been the victim of a hit and run while biking, I can tell you that even when the driver sees you and makes eye contact, you still are at risk if he just decides he gets the road and you don’t.  I was on a through street and he was at a stop sign, but it still cost me a one-hour old bike.  Attitude!

  • avatar
    mcs

    I’m a cyclist and find that the wind noise usually drowns out most vehicle sounds including non-hybrids. I have to rely on my eyes and defensive driving skills rather than my ears. If they have to do something, I’d prefer a quieter/friendler tone secondary horn that drivers could use at their descretion to alert cyclists and pedestrians. Another approach might be to add a continuous infrared transmitter that could activate an alert on the bike when the car nears. Something similar to what emergency vehicles use to change traffic lights. Why add unnecessary noise pollution.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    The guy who posted the linked photo said this was a bike race and the drunk driver blew thru the signage blocking off access. Yes, they weren’t riding single file and no, there was no reason for them to be doing so. Hope the drunkard is still languishing in a Mexican jail, having killed one of those cyclists. In the USA, chances are the cyclists would be arrested for leaving the scene of an accident instead.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    mcs
    November 10th, 2009 at 5:12 pm  

    I’m a cyclist and find that the wind noise usually drowns out most vehicle sounds including non-hybrids. I have to rely on my eyes and defensive driving skills rather than my ears. If they have to do something, I’d prefer a quieter/friendler tone secondary horn that drivers could use at their descretion to alert cyclists and pedestrians. Another approach might be to add a continuous infrared transmitter that could activate an alert on the bike when the car nears. Something similar to what emergency vehicles use to change traffic lights. Why add unnecessary noise pollution.

    “I’m a cyclist and find that the wind noise usually drowns out most vehicle sounds including non-hybrids. I have to rely on my eyes and defensive driving skills rather than my ears. If they have to do something, I’d prefer a quieter/friendler tone secondary horn that drivers could use at their descretion to alert cyclists and pedestrians. Another approach might be to add a continuous infrared transmitter that could activate an alert on the bike when the car nears. Something similar to what emergency vehicles use to change traffic lights. Why add unnecessary noise pollution.”

    You have some excellent ideas here.  I’m not a regular cyclist, but I too have noticed that wind noise problem; it even drowns out SUVs and in some cases, large commercial vehicles.

    If y’all want some people (even if it’s not you) to drive more fuel efficient vehicles, I suggest we not punish them.  Let’s not pick on hybrid owners “only”, and let’s not increase noise pollution in a rushed attempt to provide a solution/any solution.

  • avatar
    ott

    Dunno why, but I want to go bowling. What a pic…

  • avatar

    As someone who bicycled for years and tens of thousands of miles as basic transportation I am totally opposed to back-up beepers, and other noises, and I’m much more afraid of texting drivers than quiet cars. Those backup beepers are extremely obnoxious, and if they start going onto hybrid and electric cars the sheer stress of having to listen to those things is going to cause more illness than hybrids hitting people in parking lots. I think cars should have two horns: one loud one and one soft one, that could alert pedestrians and cyclists without alarming them. (It can be extremely frightening to a cyclist when a horn goes off unexpectedly, behind you.)

  • avatar
    Via Nocturna

    All right, this means there’s hope yet for my theoretical EV-that-plays-Wagner-when-put-into-reverse!

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I thought daytime running lights were supposed to help both bicyclists and pedestrians “notice” approaching cars.  I always look for backup lights when walking through a parking lot – it’s a sure sign the driver just put the car in reverse.  It seems in both cases, people just aren’t paying attention.  There are no measures that can make up for that.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    Think I’m going to save that photo and have it printed on a t-shirt with the caption, “Why I Drive to Work”.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Total agreement Dynamic88
    Somewhere out there, there has to be at least one of those act-like-I-am-invincible-and-totally-trust-other-drivers bicyclists who drives a full sized SUV in order to feel safe while motoring.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    I’m waiting for the first lawsuit against Apple for an iPodded pedestrian that stepped out into traffic and was killed because he/she couldn’t ‘hear’ anything……
     
    Damn that photo (I’ll be thinking about that all day now).

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    I remember hearing about that horrible scene in the picture. Interesting how a few people were quick to imply cyclists not riding single file contributed to the mayhem.

  • avatar
    Matthew Sullivan


    The photo you’re using for this article shows someone dying.  

    For a photo like that,  I would expect you  to think extra hard about whether using it is appropriate.

    Given that the photo illustrates the result of the crime of drunk driving,  and the subject of the article is whether hybrid cars are dangerously quiet,  my opinion is that you are not using the photo appropriately.

    Thank you.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Matthew Sullivan +1

  • avatar
    don1967

    Maybe the problem is that some hybrid drivers don’t like being out-smugged by the cyclists, so they run ‘em down.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Matthew Sullivan +2

  • avatar
    Spanner77

    I agree with a few posters here that the problem appears to that of cyclists and pedestrians, not one for quiet cars. Cars have to dodge silent pedestrians and cyclists that make no noise. They have to use their eyes alone like car drivers. period.
    The Swiss hold car drivers accountable for all pedestrian accidents. This is the wrong end of the stick. If a pedestrian mounts the road, it is there responsibility (as per Green Cross Code) to ensure it is safe to cross. If a car mounts a pavement and mows down a pedestrian i accept that’s the cars problem.
    The insidious socialist attempt to turn roads into “shared spaces\'” is faliscous. By that train of thought cars are ok to drive along pavements too.

  • avatar
    dmrdano

    BomberPete, I apologize if it seemed I was implying it was the cyclists’ fault for not riding single file in this picture.  The pic was posted without context, that being a race and a drunk driver.  I really was commenting on bikers in general, being one myself.  They/I/we often contribute to accidents by riding all over the road carelessly.  This does not absolve a careless and/or illegal driver, but it shows there are things we can do to protect ourselves from these people. 

    Spanner77, you are right that holding drivers accountable for all accidents is unjust.  However, like or not, public roads in the U.S. (not including freeways) are generally “shared space” according to the law.   (To label it socialism is to demonstrate you do not understand socialism.)  However, the wise cyclist picks his routes well to avoid the danger of high speed cars.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Even some ICE cars are so quiet they are sonically invisible until the idiot driving decides to pass on a blind turn while leaving no space between his fender and me.


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