Electric cars and hybrid vehicles have grown in popularity due to rising gas prices and a more widespread interest in “going green.” While these cars have many benefits, they also present an unfortunate and unintentional risk to pedestrians. The problem: the cars are too quiet at low speeds.
To tackle this issue, the United States Department of Transportation has proposed new minimum sound requirements for hybrid and electric vehicles. Our Washington, D.C. auto accident attorneys believe that these new requirements can help to reduce pedestrian accidents in D.C. and throughout the United States and can make the roads safer for the many people in the District who enjoy walking around the city.
Electric and Hybrid Vehicles Endanger Pedestrians
Because electric and hybrid cars do not use traditional engines, they are much quieter. Unfortunately, pedestrians often rely on a vehicle’s sound to alert them to a car approaching. Pedestrians, believing that no cars are coming, might step out into the street, might start to cross or might fail to move out of the way of oncoming traffic.
This is creating a major problem because pedestrians are at increased risk of becoming involved in an accident with one of these hybrid or electric cars. Bicycle riders, who also share the road with cars and who are expected to obey driving rules and yield the right of way when required, are also at increased risk of a crash when they do not hear a hybrid or electric vehicle coming.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is now tackling this problem. They announced their proposed safety requirements in a press release from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Their press release indicated that their new proposal was required in light of the 2010 bipartisan Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act.
The terms of the proposal specify that the electric and hybrid vehicles emit an audible sound when traveling at low speeds so that pedestrians and bike riders can hear them coming. Manufacturers have a range of different choices regarding the sound that the vehicle must make but the sounds must meet basic requirements and must be detectable over normal street noises and background noises. The sound must also be the same for all cars of the same make and model.
The sounds are only required to be added when the vehicles are going 18 miles per hour or less because NHTSA indicates that the electric and hybrid cars make enough noise to be detectable if they are going over 18 miles per hour.
In their proposal, NHTSA indicates that implementation of the new sound requirements would prevent as many as 2,800 pedestrian and bicycle rider injuries over the life of each model year of hybrid vehicles. This is a lot of lives that could be saved and a lot of people who could avoid serious injury just by adding a sound to a car.
Of course, regardless of whether the NHTSA proposal is accepted or not, it remains the responsibility of drivers, pedestrians and bicycle riders to exercise reasonable caution and to be alert for others on the roads.
If you have been injured in a D.C. accident, contact the Mike Slocumb Law Firm at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1.