In the age of texting-while-walking, it should come as no surprise that pedestrians have forgotten how to look twice for cars before crossing the road. Usually, however, their multiple senses will tell them that a car is approaching, causing them to jump back in time to avoid a pedestrian-and-car accident. As cars change, however, so do our abilities to perceive them.
This is especially true with electric cars. When electric and hybrid cars travel at low speeds, they do not need to use gas or diesel engines, which means they are very quiet, running only on silent electricity. According to the NHTSA, this increases the risk of pedestrian accidents, especially for vision-impaired pedestrians and bicyclists.
In fact, the NHTSA believes that more than 2,800 pedestrian and bicycle accidents could be prevented if electric cars were noisier. That is why they have created a number of proposed rules that would require manufacturers to meet a minimum sound level for their electric and hybrid cars. The minimum sound requirement would need to be higher than the street noise and other background noises, but manufacturers would be able to choose the sound that each make and model emits.
Any proposal that would reduce the number of accident injuries and deaths is a proposal worth considering, especially in California, which consistently ranks as one of the top four states for pedestrian fatalities.
Requiring auto manufacturers to pay attention to pedestrian safety would also mean that they could be held liable should their vehicles not meet the legal requirements. For now, if you are injured in a pedestrian accident or bike accident involving a quiet vehicle, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering and other damages.
Learn more by visiting our page on motor vehicle accidents.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Under Federal Rules Electric, Hybrid Cars Would Get Noisier," Christina Rogers, Jan. 7, 2013