Making Electric Cars Noisier to Make Them Safer?
Traffic noise can be maddening. As anyone who has ever tried to study, work or enjoy quiet relaxation near a busy street can attest, traffic noise is often a frustrating source of noise pollution. However, certain levels of traffic noise actually help to prevent auto accidents. Specifically, an increasing number of pedestrians are being hit by hybrid cars that are so quiet that walkers and joggers do not hear them coming.
In an effort to bridge the gap between the pleasing quiet of hybrid cars and the danger that these nearly silent vehicles pose to pedestrians and cyclists, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recently proposed standards for hybrid noise levels in certain situations.
Under the new standards, auto manufacturers would have to adhere to minimum noise requirements when their hybrid or electrical vehicles are traveling at particularly low speeds. When hybrids travel under 20 miles an hour or so, they tend to be particularly quiet, as they do not operate on traditional engines at these speeds.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood explained the aim of the new standards recently when he said that “Safety is our highest priority, and this proposal will help keep everyone using our nation’s streets and roadways safe, whether they are motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians, and especially the blind and visually impaired.”
If the new standards are as successful as the NHTSA hopes that they will be, nearly 3,000 fewer cyclists and pedestrians will be injured each year due to preventable collisions with hybrid vehicles. Though traffic noise can be frustrating, there are times at which it is necessary.
Source: CNN Money, “Electric cars may get noisier,” Emily Jane Fox, Jan. 7, 2013