The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced that it is adding a sound requirement for all newly manufactured hybrid and electric light-duty vehicles to help protect pedestrians. The new federal safety standard will help pedestrians who are blind, have low vision, and other pedestrians detect the presence, direction and location of these vehicles when they are traveling at low speeds, which will help prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year once all hybrids in the fleet are properly equipped.
“We all depend on our senses to alert us to possible danger,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “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.”
Under the new rule, all hybrid and electric light vehicles with four wheels and a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less will be required to make audible noise when traveling in reverse or forward at speeds up to 30 kilometers per hour (about 19 miles per hour). At higher speeds, the sound alert is not required because other factors, such as tire and wind noise, provide adequate audible warning to pedestrians.
“This is a common-sense tool to help pedestrians – especially folks who are blind or have low vision – make their way safely,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. “With pedestrian fatalities on the rise, it is vitally important we take every action to protect the most vulnerable road users.”
Manufacturers have until Sept. 1, 2019, to equip all new hybrid and electric vehicles with sounds that meet the new federal safety standard. Half of new hybrid and electric vehicles must be in compliance one year before the final deadline.
“We commend NHTSA on bringing this process to completion,” said Eric Bridges, executive director of the American Council of the Blind. “This new safety standard moving forward will not just make our streets safer for blind and visually impaired Americans, but also serve as an additional safety cue for all pedestrians who share the streets with hybrid or electric vehicles.”
The new standard, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141, responds to Congress’ mandate in the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act that hybrid and electric vehicles meet minimum sound requirements to provide an audible alert for blind and visually-impaired pedestrians.
“Having raised concerns on behalf of blind Americans about the dangers posed by silent hybrid and electric vehicles, the National Federation of the Blind is extremely pleased that technical specifications for a safe level of sound to be emitted by such vehicles have now been issued,” said Mark A. Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind. “The full implementation of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 will protect all pedestrians, especially the blind, as well as cyclists. This regulation will ensure that blind Americans can continue to travel safely and independently as we work, learn, shop and engage in all facets of community life.”