New Rules Would Ensure Pedestrians & Bicyclists Can Detect Hybrids

For owners of hybrids, their quietness can be one of the cars’ best features. However, the nearly silent vehicles can also put pedestrians and bicyclists at risk. As we previously discussed on this Florida Injury Blog, hybrids are 20 percent more likely to be involved in pedestrian crashes with injuries than their conventional counterparts, according to an analysis by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

With this in mind, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing that hybrid and electric vehicles meet minimum sound standards in order to help pedestrians detect the presence, direction, and location of these vehicles when they are operating at low speeds. "Our proposal would allow manufacturers the flexibility to design different sounds for different makes and models while still providing an opportunity for pedestrians, bicyclists and the visually impaired to detect and recognize a vehicle and make a decision about whether it is safe to cross the street," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

As detailed by the NHTSA, the sounds would need to be detectable under a wide range of street noises and other ambient background sounds when the vehicle is traveling under 18 miles per hour (the speed at which the vehicles do not emit a detectable sound). While automakers would have some latitude to choose the specific sounds for their hybrid vehicles, the characteristics of those sounds would need to meet certain minimum requirements. In addition, the sound or set of sounds would have to be the same across each make and model.

As Cape Coral injury attorneys, we are pleased that the NHTSA is taking steps to reduce the risks posed by hybrid vehicles. NHTSA estimates that if this proposal were implemented there would be 2,800 fewer pedestrian and pedal cyclist injuries over the life of each model year of a hybrid vehicle, as compared to vehicles without sound. The Dellutri Law Group is focused on making bad situations better and putting lives back together.