Study shows people are 'twice as likely to be hit by electric or hybrid cars'

Electric car.
The risk is three times greater in towns and cities -Credit:Getty

A new study has revealed people are twice as likely to be hit by electric or hybrid cars than their fuel counterparts.

The risk is three times greater in towns and cities for those travelling the old-fashioned way on foot, according to the study of road casualty statistics in the UK. Scientists have urged for there to be measures taken to reduce the risk to pedestrians. This news comes as the aim continues to drive out fossil-fuelled vehicles in order to reach "Net Zero" environmental targets.

Road traffic injuries are currently the number one cause of death among children and young people in the UK - and one in four of these road traffic fatalities are pedestrians. As we continue to shift to electric and hybrid cars, concerns have been voiced that these motors may pose more of a risk than petrol or diesel cars due to them being quieter.

The risk increases even further in urban areas where background ambient noise levels are higher, according to experts. Researchers compared the differences in pedestrian casualty rates for every 100 million miles of road travel in Britain between electric and hybrid and fossil-fuelled cars, using Government road safety statistics.

The scientists estimated annual mileage from National Travel Survey (NTS) data, with the figures only starting to include hybrid as a vehicle fuel type in 2013.

An archiving glitch precluded uploading relevant data since 2018, so the period studied was from 2013 to 2017. A total of 32 billion miles of electric and hybrid vehicle travel and three trillion miles of petrol or diesel vehicle travel were included in the analysis.

There were 916,713 casualties from reported road traffic collisions in Britain between 2013 and 2017. Of those, 120,197 were pedestrians, 96,285 of whom were hit by a car or taxi.

The risk increases even further in urban areas where background ambient noise levels are higher -Credit:Getty

Three-quarters of the pedestrian casualties, 71,666 (74 per cent), had been hit by a car or taxi powered by petrol or diesel. Around one in 50, 1,652 (two per cent), had been hit by an electric or hybrid vehicle.

But in nearly one in four of the pedestrian casualties, 22,829 (24 per cent, )the vehicle type code was missing, according to the findings published online by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Study author Professor Phil Edwards said most collisions occurred in urban areas, a greater proportion of which involved electric or hybrid vehicles (94 per cent) than petrol or diesel vehicles (88 per cent) compared to six per cent and 12 per cent, respectively, in rural areas.

Based on the figures, the research team calculated between 2013 and 2017, the average annual casualty rates of pedestrians per 100 million miles of road travel were 5.16 for electric and hybrid vehicles and 2.40 for petrol and diesel vehicles.

Prof Edwards said: "This indicates that collisions with pedestrians were, on average, twice as likely with electric and hybrid vehicles as they were with petrol and diesel vehicles, and three times as likely in urban areas than in rural areas."

The research team suggested younger, less experienced drivers are more likely to be involved in a road traffic collision and are also more likely to own an electric car, possibly accounting for some of the observed heightened risk.

Prof Edwards, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "More pedestrians are injured in Great Britain by petrol and diesel cars than by electric cars, but compared with petrol and diesel cars, electric cars pose a greater risk to pedestrians and the risk is greater in urban environments.

"One plausible explanation for our results is that background ambient noise levels differ between urban and rural areas, causing electric vehicles to be less audible to pedestrians in urban areas."

He added: "From a public health perspective, our results should not discourage active forms of transport beneficial to health, such as walking and cycling; rather they can be used to ensure that any potential increased traffic injury risks are understood and safeguarded against."

The research team concluded the heightened safety risk posed to pedestrians by electric and hybrid cars "needs to be mitigated as governments proceed to phase out petrol and diesel cars".

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