Hybrids And EVs Must Produce Noise At Low Speeds By 2019 To Reduce Pedestrian Collisions

One of the benefits of an electric vehicle and many hybrids is that they reduce noise pollution compared to their gas guzzling brethren. On the surface, that sounds like a good thing, until you get plowed into by one because you didn't hear it coming. To prevent that from happening, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has added a sound requirement for all newly built hybrid and EVs.

"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."

Nissan Leaf

The new mandate applies to all hybrid and EVs with four wheels and a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or less. Such automobiles will be required to make an audible noise when traveling forward or in reverse at low speeds—up to 19 miles per hour. The requirement doesn't apply to faster speeds because the NHTSA start to come into play, such as tire and wind noise, which provide enough warning to walkers.

All pedestrians stand to benefit, though the NHTSA specifically mentions the mandate helping people who are blind or have low vision to know when an otherwise quiet vehicle is approaching, along with which direction it is coming from.

"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."

No small thing, the NHTSA says the noise requirement will help prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year.