Are Hybrids and Electric Vehicles Too Quiet?

Hybrid and electric vehicles are eerily quiet as they glide by on a smoothly paved surface.

This lack of noise pollution is a welcome change, but it could also be a safety hazard for pedestrians accustomed to hearing the noise of engines as they cross a street or walk through parking lots.

That’s why the federal government is studying a proposal that would require electric-powered vehicles to emit alert sounds when traveling at low speeds.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it is taking the first major step toward proposing regulations that will protect unsuspecting pedestrians and the visually-impaired from accidents involving hybrid and electric vehicles.

"America’s streets must be safe for everyone who uses them," says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "As we improve the environment with cleaner cars, we must also consider how it affects those on bikes and on foot."

The study is mandated by the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, and will lay the groundwork for a proposed rulemaking to help pedestrians detect the presence of quieter vehicles.

NHTSA has issued two reports on the subject in the last two years. Although the studies were based on relatively small sample of 12 states, they found an increased rate of pedestrian crashes for hybrid vehicles compared to those with internal combustion engines. 

Once the notice is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 30 days to submit comments.

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Comments on “Are Hybrids and Electric Vehicles Too Quiet?”

  1. richard Toole

    This is ridiculous! My world which used to be considered rural is full of noise. Mostly unnecessarily loud motor vehicles. One of the many nice things about hybrids and electrics is that they are quiet! How about drivers using more caution as well as pedestrians. This is another case of everyone being penalized because a few people behave badly. Keep hybrids and electrics quiet!

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