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Electric vehicles more likely to hit pedestrians than petrol cars – study

Pedestrians may be twice as likely to be hit by an electric or hybrid car compared to petrol or diesel vehicles, according to a new study.

The study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health on Tuesday analysed casualty rates on the road in the UK between 2013-2017.

The researchers said their findings indicated collisions with pedestrians were twice more likely with electric and hybrid vehicles than with petrol and diesel vehicles, and three times as likely in urban areas than in rural areas.

Based on data from 916,713 incidents involving casualties, the researchers calculated that between 2013 and 2017, the average annual pedestrian casualty rate per 100 million miles of road travel was 5.16 for electric and hybrid vehicles and 2.40 for petrol and diesel vehicles.

In total, 32 billion miles of electric/hybrid vehicle travel and 3 trillion miles of petrol/diesel vehicle travel were included in the analysis.

Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young people, and 1 in 4 road traffic deaths are of pedestrians, the researchers noted.

The researchers said that electric and hybrid vehicles may pose more of a safety hazard to pedestrians because they are quieter, particularly in urban areas where background ambient noise levels are higher.

They also 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.

“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,” they wrote.

“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.”

They conclude that 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“.

The study’s authors acknowledged several caveats to their findings, including the lack of data beyond 2017 due to an archiving glitch affecting National Travel Survey (NTS) data since 2018.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The research referred to within this report only looks at data between 2013 and 2017, pre-dating the current requirements on electric vehicles.

“We are committed to ensuring all vehicles are as safe as possible, which is why there are already strict requirements for new EVs to have built-in sound generators while travelling at low speeds and reversing.”

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