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New Study Says Hybrids Are Safer

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author photo by Jeffrey Archer November 2011

According to a new study from the Highway Loss Data Institute, hybrid cars aren't just more efficient than conventional cars - they're also safer. The recently released study found that the odds of being injured in a crash are considerably lower for people travelling in hybrids than for occupants of non-hybrid vehicles.

In the study, the HLDI gathered insurance claim data for all 2003 through 2011 model year vehicles that offer both hybrid and traditional gasoline-powered variants.  The group then analyzed injury information of drivers, passengers and third parties, such as bystanders or occupants of other vehicles. The result, says the HLDI, is the odds of being injured in a hybrid are 25 percent lower than in conventionally powered vehicles.  

"Weight is a big factor," says Matt Moore, HLDI's vice president and an author of the study. "Hybrids on average are 10 percent heavier than their standard counterparts. This extra mass gives them an advantage in crashes that their conventional twins don't have."

But it's not only weight that causes hybrids to fare better in crashes than conventional vehicles. Other reasons for the discrepancy include the more cautious, prudent manner of the typical hybrid car buyer, and the fact that hybrids are often driven more slowly in order to maximize efficiency and fuel economy.

Despite the decreased chance of injury, it's not all good news for hybrid cars. The HLDI also found hybrids are 20 percent more likely to be involved in pedestrian crashes with injuries than traditional gasoline-powered cars. According to the institute, the high figure is likely due to lower noise levels from hybrid engines compared to conventional combustion powerplants.

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

Despite supply short ages for the popular Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid, hybrid sales remain on the rise among US consumers. This year, several new hybrids joined the market, including the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Lexus CT 200h, Infiniti M hybrid and Volkswagen Touareg hybrid.

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New Study Says Hybrids Are Safer - Autotrader