Are You Less Safe in a Hybrid Car?

I’ve heard from more car shoppers than I can count over the years asking for advice on purchasing a new car. Yesterday a question was asked that no one had previously brought up to me.

The shopper is in the market for a new 2017 hybrid or plug-in hybrid SUV. She drives a lot, lives in an area known for epic snowfall, and has had her share of scary incidents while on the road. Naturally, she wants something safe and reliable that goes at least a few miles on electric power to save a few bucks on gas.

Considering the close calls she’s had while driving, she asked me if rescue workers are able to use the Jaws of Life on hybrid and electric vehicles. She’d heard a rumor that first responders won’t extract people stuck in such vehicles due to risks of electrocution from cutting into high-voltage lines.

Could that rumor be true?

Twelve years ago, as hybrids were in their infancy, rumors began to circulate that driving one could be dangerous, because rescue workers couldn’t use the Jaws of Life on them. There were some early questions about the safety of using hydraulic rescue tools on vehicles with high-voltage lines running through them, but automakers have done a good job of addressing those questions.

Then four years ago, this story ran:

When every second counts, a hybrid car could be your worst enemy.

Although most hybrids test well in crash situations according to the Insurance Institute Of Highway Safety, there are risks first responders face that could slow down a rescue.

Mechanic Troy Cummings warns the same components which makes the car fuel efficient also make it a potential death trap when involved in a serious accident.

“It could cost you your life if they can’t get to you and if they don’t know specifically the vehicle and how to disable the hybrid system,” Cummings says.

Cummings says the issue stems from the high voltage cables running through the car’s frame, which are connected to the battery. “Most of the amperage in the hybrids can be upwards of 100 amps or greater, so the potential to kill you is right there.”

In the years since, automakers have provided training to emergency personnel and color-coded their high-voltage wires while running them lower in a vehicle’s frame.

Rest assured, the people who are paid to rescue you in your time of need are well-trained and capable of saving your life, regardless of the car you drive. If you need more convincing, take a look through this training guide.

But please, always drive aware and distraction-free to reduce your chances of needing emergency help.

What would keep you from buying a hybrid or electric car?

-tgriffith

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1 Comment

  1. Living where there is definite winter, I’ll be waiting for a 300+ mile, all-wheel drive electric vehicle. Something on the order of a 5 passenger Subaru Outback size car..that is in the $30k range.

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