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Electric Vehicles – Do They Pose a Higher Crash Risk?  

electric vehicle parked at a charging stationElectric vehicles have become a lot more popular over the past decade. People concerned about the environment appreciate that they put out fewer greenhouse gasses and pollutants than other vehicles. Consumers also believe electric vehicles to be safer, but could they actually pose a higher crash risk?

From improved driving performance to lower fuel costs, there is no doubt that there are a lot of positives to driving an electric vehicle. That said, it is important that drivers understand the inherent risks of these vehicles as well. To that end, Schmidt Kramer talks about some electric vehicle features that are more dangerous to drivers, occupants and others sharing the road.

Injured in a collision caused by a negligent driver? Not sure if you have a valid claim? These are both great reasons to contact our law offices. We have staff available to take your call anytime, night or day.

An initial consultation with one of our experienced auto accident lawyers in Harrisburg is completely free. Request yours today to find out if you have legal options.

Do Electric Vehicles Pose a Higher Crash Risk?

Research shows that electric vehicles are widely advertised as being environmentally friendly, economical and safe. It is true that there are many impressive safety features in these vehicles. However, some electric vehicle components may actually increase the risk of a crash.

The Silent Approach of Electric Vehicles Can Be Deadly

Electric vehicles are known to be exceptionally quiet. This feature may be appreciated in many residential neighborhoods, but it also poses a serious crash risk for pedestrians and cyclists.

The problem is that anyone out riding a bike or enjoying a walk will be unable to hear these vehicles approaching. This is dangerous enough even when a driver is paying attention. If the driver is distracted, impaired or speeding in a school zone or other busy traffic area, it could greatly increase the risk of a crash.

Those most at risk of being hit by an approaching electric vehicle include:

  • Children playing in residential areas or school zones
  • Pedestrians with headphones on or texting and walking
  • Impaired or drowsy pedestrians walking at night
  • Cyclists
  • Motorcycle riders
  • Visually impaired people who rely on sound to warn them of danger
  • Elderly pedestrians

Are Electric Vehicles More Dangerous if a Crash Occurs?

Electric vehicles may be safer in some ways. However in a collision, the lithium batteries could make these vehicles far more dangerous than their gas-powered counterparts.

Lithium Batteries May Explode, Burn and Reignite Multiple Times

The smooth and quiet operation of electric vehicles is powered by lithium batteries. If a crash occurs, there is a chance these batteries could ignite or explode. With a gas-powered vehicle, it is well-known that a wayward spark could cause the vehicle to catch fire. With electric vehicles, no spark is required. The impact of a crash alone could cause lithium batteries to overheat and ignite or explode.

The other unique and dangerous issue with these batteries is that once they ignite, they are extremely difficult to put out. Lithium batteries can also reignite multiple times after the initial fire is extinguished. This could happen not only right after the collision, but days or even weeks later.

One real-life example of this happening is the Tesla Model S that caught fire three weeks after it had been taken to a junkyard. Firefighters extinguished the fire multiple times only to have it repeatedly reignite. They ended up submerging the vehicle in a pit of water.

An Exploding Battery Emits Hazardous Fumes

Another concern if a lithium battery explodes or ignites is that it puts out toxic fumes that could be extremely hazardous to anyone in or near the vehicle.

The Increased Weight of EVs Can Cause Catastrophic Injuries in a Crash

The weight of an electric vehicle in a crash is even more concerning than the possibility of batteries igniting, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The driver and occupants of an electric vehicle might be more protected. However, lighter vehicles involved in a collision with an EV would not fare so well. The damage to these vehicles would be significant, which is also more likely to result in severe or catastrophic injuries.

There is a Risk of Electric Shock Following a Crash

Any contact with battery components could cause an electric shock, which could be fatal. Therefore, after a crash with an electric vehicle, it is important to take these precautions:

  • Always assume an electric vehicle is still at full power, even after a collision
  • Immediately roll down the windows of an EV before turning the car off and removing the key from the ignition
  • Never touch the engine compartment, any exposed wiring, the battery or anything else under the hood

When calling 9-1-1 to notify them about a traffic accident, let them know if one of the vehicles involved in the crash is electric.

Increased Weight May Make Drivers More Careless

Electric vehicles are heavier, which means in a crash the drivers and passengers may be more protected during the impact. Just knowing this makes certain types of drivers more likely to be reckless or take risks behind the wheel.

For example, these drivers may be more likely to speed or aggressively tailgate other vehicles. Studies of behavioral data call this the car cushion hypothesis. The safer drivers feel in a car, due to the size or weight, the more likely certain some drivers are to engage in risky driving behaviors.

Is it a Bad Idea to Buy an Electric Vehicle?

Not at all. However, as with any large piece of machinery, it is important to understand both the advantages and inherent risks. Drivers owe a duty of care to prevent causing harm to others. If you drive an electric vehicle, this means being aware that a pedestrian or cyclist may not hear you approaching. Taking greater care to adhere to traffic laws and being mindful of potential road hazards, including those caused by bad weather, are vital. Whether or not you drive an electric vehicle, driving defensively can help you to avoid causing a serious or catastrophic crash.

As a pedestrian or other vulnerable road user, it is also important to know about electric vehicles. You can protect yourself by:

  • Paying closer attention to the road while walking – i.e. putting away your cellphone
  • Not automatically walking into the street without checking for traffic and ensuring vehicles have stopped
  • Checking for other potential hazards, such as an approaching vehicle that is swerving
  • Wearing clothing or even reflective gear that will help you to be seen better by drivers

Call to Discuss Your Crash With an Experienced Lawyer

At Schmidt Kramer, we work hard for victims injured by the negligence of others. We have decades of experience and a history of proven results. While we are able to negotiate a fair and just settlement in most cases, we are also prepared to represent you in a trial.

Contact our law offices to learn about your legal options today. Your initial case review is completely free, and if you choose our firm to represent you, there are also no upfront costs to pay.

Schmidt Kramer. We get you results. (717) 727-1403