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Hybrids safer than gas cars?

By Tara Baukus Mello ·
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Posted: 9 am ET

Hybrid cars are safer than their gasoline counterparts, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety's Highway Loss Data Institute. The odds of being injured in a car crash are 25 percent lower on average for people traveling in a hybrid versus in the gasoline equivalent. While it's too early to see any impact from the results of study, it is possible that the insurance industry will take this data into consideration when rating hybrid cars, affecting car insurance rates.

The biggest factor in the reduced occupant injury is the car's weight. Hybrids typically weigh 10 percent more than their gasoline counterparts, giving them an advantage in car crashes. Because of the physics of a crash, both size and weight of the cars affects the likelihood of injury to each car's occupants, with the larger, heavier car having the advantage. Bigger, heavier cars have the advantage in single-car crashes too, because they are more likely to deform the object they hit, such as a telephone pole.

Other factors including the hybrid drivers as well as when and how they drive may be contributors to the reduced odds of injury, but researchers added controls in the study to reduce the impact these factors may have had on the results. Controls for the study included calendar year, rated driver age and gender, marital status, number of registered cars per square mile, garaging state, vehicle series and vehicle age.

The study analyzed more than 25 pairs of cars -- a hybrid and its conventional counterpart -- from the 2003 to 2011 model year that had at least one collision claim and one related injury insurance claim. Because there is no gasoline counterpart, the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight were excluded from the study.

Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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