LONDON (dpa-AFX) - Electric cars can pose a greater risk of accidents for pedestrians than cars with combustion engines, according to a study. According to the analysis of older data from Great Britain, pedestrians are twice as likely to be hit by electric/hybrid vehicles than by petrol/diesel vehicles. One reason could be that the vehicles are quieter - especially in cities, they are less easy to hear due to the ambient noise, the research team explains in the "Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health".

Drivers of electric or hybrid cars should pay more attention to pedestrians, as they may not be able to hear them and step onto the road, the scientists say. Work also needs to be done to mitigate the increased risk. Possible technical solutions include systems for collision avoidance and autonomous emergency braking.

No reason to stop traveling on foot

The team also emphasizes that the results should not discourage people from walking or cycling. Rather, the data should be used to better understand potential risks in road traffic and do something about them.

The researchers led by Phil Edwards from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine examined the risk of accidents in the UK using data from 2013 to 2017. Of around 96,000 pedestrians who were hit by a car or cab, around three-quarters were hit by a vehicle with a diesel or petrol engine (almost 72,000) and two percent (around 1,700) were hit by an electric or hybrid car. No information was provided for around a quarter.

The majority of accidents in urban areas

The researchers put these figures in relation to the distance covered by each type of vehicle and calculated the accident rate for pedestrians per 100 million miles (around 160 million kilometers). The annual average for electric and hybrid vehicles (5.16) was twice as high as for petrol and diesel vehicles (2.40). The majority of accidents occur in urban areas.

Among other things, the researchers point out that the analysis lacks data beyond 2017 and that there could be a distortion due to the fact that younger, less experienced drivers are more likely to own an electric car - younger drivers are generally more likely to be involved in road accidents. Factors such as differences in the weight or acceleration of the vehicles could also play a role.

Stronger acceleration, more weight

Electric cars often accelerate much faster and, like all cars, they are becoming heavier on average. Newly sold electric cars in particular are often powerful, heavy SUVs or luxury cars. Analyses from several countries have already shown that this is one of the reasons why e-cars cause proportionally more traffic accidents than combustion engines.

Electric vehicles drive quietly, especially when starting off. This is why the legislator requires a deliberately generated, continuous sound - so that visually impaired people can also locate the vehicles. How it sounds is largely up to the manufacturers' sound engineers./kil/DP/zb