Silent but Deadly: Study Shows EVs ‘Hit Pedestrians at Twice the Rate of Petrol or Diesel Vehicles’

Electric vehicles
Mark Garfinkel/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty , file

Electric vehicles collide with pedestrians at twice the rate of their petrol or diesel counterparts, particularly in crowded towns and cities, a British Medical Journal (BMJ) survey released Wednesday shows.

The report details how electric vehicles (EVs) are statistically much more dangerous than vehicles with an internal combustion engine on urban roads due to being quieter.

Data from 32bn miles of battery-powered car travel and 3tn miles of petrol and diesel car trips showed that mile-for-mile electric and hybrid cars were twice as likely to hit pedestrians than fossil fuel-powered cars, and three times more likely to do so in urban areas.

Researchers suspect a number of factors are to blame as electric vehicles continue to confront acceptance problems in the market place:

Drivers of electric vehicles tend to be younger and less experienced, and the cars are much quieter than cars with combustion engines, making them harder to hear, especially in built up areas of crowded towns and cities.

Phil Edwards, first author on the study and professor of epidemiology and statistics at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, set out the problem with electric vehicles:

Electric cars are a hazard to pedestrians because they are less likely to be heard than petrol or diesel cars. The government needs to mitigate these risks if they are going to phase out the sale of petrol and diesel cars.

If you’re moving to an electric car, remember it’s a new kind of vehicle. They are much quieter than the old-fashioned cars, and pedestrians have learned to navigate roads by listening for traffic. Drivers of these vehicles need to be extra cautious.

Road traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among children and young adults in the UK, with pedestrians making up a quarter of all deaths on the roads.

In 2017, a US Department of Transportation report found that electric and hybrid cars posed a 20 percent higher risk to pedestrians than petrol and diesel cars, and a 50 percent higher risk during low-speed moves, such as turning, reversing, starting into traffic and pulling to a stop.

To combat the noise barrier, some car companies have resorted to adding fake engine sounds to their electric vehicles from the point of purchase.

Edwards and his colleagues studied UK travel and road accident data from 2013 to 2017 as a basis for their report.

Because of an archiving problem, data from 2018 onwards is not available. Their analysis included 916,713 casualties of which 120,197 were pedestrians.

More than 96,000 had been hit by a car or taxi.

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