Feds to Require Sound Alerts for Electric Cars, Hybrids

The problem with those quiet electric cars and hybrids? They’re too quiet,” said NPR host Scott Simon. “Many people just can’t hear them coming.” In November, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it is moving to require all electric and hybrid vehicles to create noise at up to 19 miles per hour, when moving forwards or in reverse. At 20 mph and above, even electric and hybrid cars make enough wind noise and tire noise that they are easily heard.
The Detroit News reported that auto manufacturers would have until September 1, 2019, to meet the requirement, although the U.S. Department of Transportation said half of their electric and hybrid fleets must have audible alerts by September 2018. “We all depend on our senses to alert us to possible danger,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement. “With more, quieter hybrid and electrical cars on the road, the ability for all pedestrians to hear as well as see the cars becomes an important factor of reducing the risk of possible crashes and improving safety.”

Robert Strassburger, VP for vehicle safety at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, worked with the National Federation of the Blind to develop the rules. “One of the gentlemen from the NFB with whom we worked actually was hit by a hybrid vehicle. He did not hear it,” Strassburger told NPR.” It’s critically important that the sound emitted does sound like a car. It benefits all of us – but, most particularly, the blind,” he added.
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said: “This is a common-sense tool to help pedestrians – especially folks who are blind or have low vision – make their way safely. With pedestrian fatalities on the rise, it is vitally important we take every action to protect the most vulnerable road users.”
Congress required the long-delayed rules that were finalized in November 2016. The NHTSA estimated that the rules would cost automakers approximately $39 million annually, due to the cost of adding an external, waterproof speaker to comply. The benefits in terms of reduced injuries, however, are estimated at $250-$320 million every year. 
The NHTSA estimates that about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year will be prevented once this new electric car standard goes into effect.
Craig Follis has extensive experience in litigation, negotiating and settling suits, and providing legal opinions on liability and insurance coverage. You can reach him at (888) 703-0109 or via email at cfollis@lawyersva.com.


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