The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Study: Highway Loss Data Institute Finds Mixed Safety Results for Hybrids

November 17, 2011

ARLINGTON, VA — A new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) found that hybrid vehicles are better at shielding their occupants. The HLDI’s study found the odds of being injured are reduced by 25% in a hybrid, largely due to vehicle weight.

"Weight is a big factor," said Matt Moore, HLDI vice president and an author of the report. "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."

He said how, when, and who is driving a hybrid can also contribute, though HLDI researchers included controls in the study to reduce the impact these factors had on their findings.

On the other hand, the HLDI found that hybrids are 20% more likely to be involved in pedestrian crashes where injuries occur.

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

The HLDI’s analysts examined how frequently filed injury claims were filed for 17 hybrid models as well as their non-hybrid counterparts when there was no related collision or property damage. Studied vehicles included 2002-10 full-hybrid models and their standard counterparts during 2004-2010 calendar years, totaling 25,382 bodily injury liability claims. The HLDI did not include the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight in the study because they are only offered in hybrid models and can’t be compared to their conventional-powertrain counterparts.

The HLDI study identified claim frequency for these findings as claims per 1,000 insured vehicle years (an insured vehicle year is 1 vehicle insured for 1 year or 2 for 6 months each, etc.). HLDI said it controlled for calendar year, rated driver age, rated driver gender, marital status, risk, registered vehicle density, garaging state, vehicle series, and vehicle age.

HLDI’s Moore said the organization can't definitively tell from the claims data it analyzed that a crash involved a pedestrian, but a sample of the claims  studied suggests that these are mostly pedestrian injury claims.

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