Obviously, one of the greatest features of hybrid and electric vehicles is that it is a green vehicle, producing little or no harmful emissions. To do this, many of these vehicles lack an internal combustion engine (or only use one at higher speeds). As a result, these vehicles are very quiet at lower speeds — actually, “very quiet” may not go far enough. It would be fair to say that at certain low speeds, the vehicles are undetectable by ear.
This is supported by one study that says hybrid and electric vehicles are twice as likely to strike a pedestrian as more widely-accepted vehicles with a standard internal combustion engine. The study determined this by using “slow speed” road circumstances, such as parking a car, starting from an idle position or driving in reverse. At less than 18 miles per hour, these “quiet cars” are essentially inaudible, failing to generate the amount of noise through road contact that pedestrians expect.
Pedestrians that normally rely on their hearing to help identify oncoming vehicles (or pedestrians that are visually impaired) are placed in a precarious situation when hybrid or electric vehicle approach — and the U.S. government is stepping in to try and improve road safety.
A new federal law was enacted that will require hybrid and electric vehicle manufacturers to place noisemaking devices in their vehicles. This addition is expected to cost the industry $25 million, but the price is nothing compared to the lives and injuries that will be spared.
Source: Bloomberg News, “US will require too-quiet electric cars to make noise,” Angela Greiling Keane, Jan. 8, 2013
- To learn more about the laws that impact car manufacturers — and the legal options someone has when they are broken — please visit our San Francisco motor vehicle accident page.