NHTSA: Hybrids & Electric Vehicles Are Silent But (Possibly) Deadly To Pedestrians

One of the first things most people notice when driving or riding in a hybrid or electric vehicle is just how much quieter the engine is compared to your standard gasoline engine. But the folks at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are worried that these cars might be a little too quiet for passing pedestrians. Thus, NHTSA is looking for ways these vehicles can alert pedestrians to their presence.

Among the rules being considered is requiring electric and hybrid vehicles be equipped to play sounds to alert pedestrians, who are still used to louder gas engines, that the cars are not parked but are actually idling or moving very slowly.

In its Notice of Intent, NHTSA cites two of its reports, one in October 2009 and the other in April 2010, that both looked at the possible dangers posed to pedestrians by quieter engines. The earlier study, which NHTSA admits was based on a small sample size, “found an increased rate of pedestrian crashes for hybrid vehicles” compared to their internal combustion counterparts. The April 2010 report stated that quieter cars “may introduce a safety issue for pedestrians who are visually-impaired.”

“Even as we make giant leaps forward with hybrid and electric vehicles, we must remain laser focused on safety,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a statement. “With more and more quiet vehicles on the road, we have to consider their effect on pedestrians.”

You can listen to a couple of the proposed sounds over at the NHTSA website.

NHTSA Studying Environmental Impact of ‘Quieter Cars’ [NHTSA.gov]