DETROIT -- In the first analysis of its kind, the Highway Loss Data Institute found that drivers of hybrid vehicles are, on average, 25 percent less likely to be injured in a crash than drivers of conventional vehicles.
Matt Moore, the data institute's vice president and author of the study, said weight was a big factor in its analysis.
"Hybrids on average are 10 percent heavier than their standard counterparts," Moore said in a statement today. "This extra mass gives them an advantage in crashes that their conventional twins don't have."
The data institute is an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The analysis included more than 25 hybrid-conventional vehicle pairs spanning the 2003-2011 model years.
Cars sold only as hybrids or electric vehicles -- including the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, Nissan Leaf, and Chevy Volt -- were excluded from the study.
Other factors such as how, when and by whom hybrids are driven may also be a contributing factor to the results, the agency said.
Silent and deadly?
Despite the news, hybrid manufacturers can still expect to have one issue to grapple with: their silence.
In a separate study by the data institute, it found that hybrids may be 20 percent more likely than their conventional counterparts to be involved in pedestrian crashes resulting in injuries to humans.
"When hybrids operate in electric-only mode, pedestrians can't hear them approaching," Moore said in a statement.
Earlier this year, Congress gave the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration three years to come up with a requirement for equipping hybrids and electric models with sounds to alert unsuspecting pedestrians.
Moore cited an article by CNN recognizing that Japan is the only place to have such a safety requirement.
The device emits a humming sound similar to an electric motor, the article said, which rises and falls in pitch relative to the vehicle's speed. It has been available in the Japanese third-generation Prius since August 2010 and is expected to come to the U.S. market starting with the 2012 Toyota Prius V.
The 2011 Nissan Leaf, although not included in the study, is also equipped with an "Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians" system designed to alert pedestrians that the vehicle is approaching when driving at certain speeds, an earlier release by Nissan said.
Moore said regulators could require vehicles to be equipped with some kind of audible noise when in pure electric mode, but the form is up to the manufacturer.