There used to be this perception that hybrids were, aside from their obvious fuel efficiency benefits, a little wimpy and unsafe. This was not an unfounded perception. In the past, fuel economy came at the expense of vehicle weight, a major factor in the safety of a vehicle that stands true even today. However, it seems some things have changed.

Research conducted recently by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), is showing that the table have turned, and hybrids are proving to be safer than their standard counterparts when it comes to shielding their occupants from personal injuries in vehicle crashes.

Hybrid Safety

Researchers say that, on average, the odds of being injured in a crash are an impressive 25% lower for people in hybrids than people traveling in nonhybrid models. They confirm that one of the big factors in this is that technology in hybrids has allowed engineers

“Hybrids on average are 10% heavier than their standard counterparts. This extra mass gives them an advantage in crashes that their conventional twins don’t have.” says Matt Moore, HLDI vice president and an author of the report.

He notes other factors, such as:

  • Method Factors – How the hybrids are being driven.
  • Time Factors – When people are driving them
  • Demographic Factors – Who are driving them

Researchers included controls to reduce the impact these differences may have had on the results. In the study, HLDI estimated the odds that a crash would result in injuries if people were riding in a hybrid versus the conventional version of the same vehicle.

The study included more than 25 hybrid-conventional vehicle pairs, all 2003-11 models, with at least 1 collision claim and at least 1 related injury claim filed under personal injury protection or medical payment coverage in 2002-10. Researchers found that hybrids’ injury odds were 27% lower than their standard counterparts for collision claims with a related personal injury protection PIP claim and 25% lower than their twins for collision claims with a related MedPay claim.

Hybrids and Crashes

There are definitely multiple factors in why hybrids are safer. As mentioned above, they are generally driven differently by those who chose to drive hybrids. As it stands the demographics for hybrids skew older and thus are less prone to being seen speeding or involved in DUI stops. Also, there are fewer of them on the road at night as compared to standard vehicles currently. Certainly, this may change as hybrids become more prevalent on the roads, but as it stands the statistics and engineering are solid.

The physics behind hybrid accidents

As anyone can tell you, when two vehicles that differ in size and weight collide, the people in the smaller, lighter vehicle will be at a serious disadvantage. It’s the physics of force that’s been around for hundreds of years. When two objects collide, any two objects, the bigger, heavier object will push the smaller, lighter one backward on impact.

Greater force means greater risk of personal injury for people in smaller vehicles. Even in single-vehicle crashes, heavier vehicles have an advantage because they are more likely to move, bend, or deform objects they hit.

You see, it’s actually partly due to their engineering. Hybrids have to weigh more because the lithium-ion battery packs and other components used in dual-power systems in today’s modern hybrids weigh much more than standard vehicle engine components. Two of the same model of car, one standard, one hybrid, can have about a 450 to 500 lb differential. A serious disparity when it comes to personal injuries in a car accident.

Hybrids and pedestrians

Not all of the news was bright. HLDI conducted a separate analysis of the data that shows hybrids may be as much as 20% more likely to be involved in pedestrian crashes with injuries than standard vehicles.

“When hybrids operate in electric-only mode pedestrians can’t hear them approaching,” says Moore, “so they might step out into the roadway without checking first to see what’s coming.”

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been working diligently with safety advocates. Earlier this year Congress gave the agency three years to come up with a requirement for equipping hybrids and electric models with sounds to alert unsuspecting pedestrians.

Seattle Car Accident Attorneys

This finding is going to be important to people who are both concerned about safety and fuel efficiency. This is particularly important for parents who want a safe car that shows their kids the importance of carbon emissions and conservation.

“Saving at the pump no longer means you have to skimp on crash protection,” Moore says.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of these types of intersections then the best thing you can do is contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. Call Phillips Law Firm for a free consultation and review of your legal options.