Finally, after three years, electric and hybrid vehicles will be required to emit sound alerts at low speeds so that pedestrians, especially the visually impaired, can hear them.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a new rule yesterday requiring all electric and hybrid vehicles to create noise at up to 19 miles per hour – whether in forward or reverse.
Because these vehicles run on batteries, especially in low-speed environments such as parking lots and at traffic lights, they are extremely quiet.
At higher speeds, tire and wind noise provide adequate audible warning to pedestrians.
Automakers have until Sept. 1, 2019 to meet the new federal safety standard. Half of new hybrid and electric vehicles must be in compliance one year before the final deadline.
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said: “This is a common-sense tool to help pedestrians — especially folks who are blind or have low vision — make their way safely. With pedestrian fatalities on the rise, it is vitally important we take every action to protect the most vulnerable road users.”
The ruling on this fairly simple issue has been in works since 2013, and NHTSA estimates it will help prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year once all hybrids in the fleet are properly equipped.
Advocates for pedestrians with vision impairments commended NHTSA for the new rule.
Eric Bridges, executive director of the American Council of the Blind, said, “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.”