Most people prefer quiet cars to noisy cars; silence to road noise. Yet, in the case of electric and hybrid vehicles, that silence could be deadly. When traveling at low speeds, those cars do not have to use gas or diesel engines, which means they are much quieter. This causes problems when pedestrians, bicyclists, and even other cars, cannot hear their approach. It is especially challenging for walkers who are visually impaired.
A study by the NHTSA found that electric and hybrid cars lead to more accidents than traditional gasoline-powered cars. The NHTSA believes that making these cars just a bit noisier would reduce the number of bicycle and pedestrian accidents by 2,800.
That is why the NHTSA has proposed a minimum sound requirement for these vehicles. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141 would require manufacturers of electric and hybrid vehicles to ensure that their vehicles meet a minimum sound requirement when traveling at speeds under 18 mph. The required sound level would be louder than the street and background noises.
Manufacturers would be able to create unique sounds for each make and model as long as they met requirements under the proposed rule. It is estimated that the new technology would cost manufacturers $30 per vehicle.
Thirty dollars is a small price to pay to prevent 2,800 accidents and save lives. Unfortunately, like any rule-making process, it will be some time before the proposed rule becomes a final rule. Until then, if you are injured or a loved one is killed in a pedestrian accident involving a quiet vehicle, you may have legal recourse. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you evaluate your options and bring a lawsuit against any liable parties.