Hybrid Cars – Greener but Deadly to Pedestrians?

By Peter DePaolis

Did you hear that? It was a hybrid vehicle, and chances are you didn’t hear it if you are a pedestrian. The cars may be great for the environment, but one study says they can be bad news for pedestrians. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), hybrid cars are 20 percent more likely to injure a pedestrian because they are difficult to hear in electric-only mode.

A spokesperson for the HLDI says pedestrians may not hear the approaching hybrid and be more likely to cross the street without looking. Federal regulators seem to have taken notice of the quiet danger. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently working on a requirement that hybrids come equipped with audible alerts to make them safer for pedestrians. Nissan has already added bell sounds and a soft whirring sound to its hybrid.

Hybrid vehicles present an even bigger danger to blind pedestrians who depend on their hearing when crossing the street. An NHTSA study last year found that hybrid cars are twice as likely to hit a pedestrian at low speeds when compared to a conventional vehicles. Advocates for hybrids do not like added sounds to the cars because they feel it contributes to neighborhood noise levels.

Having represented pedestrians in personal injury claims, I can tell you that injuries from these accidents are often severe and frequently permanent. It is important that everyone take extra precautions now that this quiet danger is potentially lurking behind every crosswalk. Remember that it is often difficult to gage the speed of a moving vehicle, especially when viewed head-on.

The most common defense to a personal injury lawsuit involving a pedestrian is to “blame the victim” and argue that the injured victim did not keep a proper lookout and put himself or herself in harm’s way. In Virginia, this defense if proven will free the negligent driver of all responsibility for a pedestrian’s injuries. If you are injured as a pedestrian, you should never give a statement to the driver’s insurance company, and should immediately contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your rights.

Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP

Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia Injury Attorneys

Approved by attorney Thomas McWeeny

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.