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Pedestrians and the danger of quiet hybrid cars

| Aug 23, 2018 | motor vehicle accidents

A new study shows an alarmingly large number of pedestrians lose their lives each year as a result of motor vehicle accidents. In 2017, approximately 6,000 pedestrians died as a result of a car striking them. This indicates an increasing trend in the number of cars that hit people each year.

While there are many potential reasons for this trend, there is one source of pedestrian accidents that has increased in recent years. More people than ever drive electric hybrid vehicles, which are extremely quiet. With most vehicles, someone walking or riding a bike could hear a car approaching and have some time to react accordingly. However, if a pedestrian attempts to cross a street at night, then he or she may not hear a hybrid vehicle approaching. The quietness of the vehicles can also make the driver laxer while behind the wheel. Vehicles with standard combustion engines tend to be noisier when the car travels fast, so motorists have a sense the car is well over the speed limit. With quieter vehicles, the motorist may be completely unaware of the speed of the car, which can drastically increase the severity of injuries if involved in a collision.

Legislation to prevent such accidents

New regulations to help make hybrid vehicles more noticeable to the human ear initially came up in 2010. However, it was only recently that the United States Department of Transportation has gotten around to passing new rules. These new rules require hybrid automakers, such as GM, Nissan and Tesla, to add noises when the cars travel below 18.6 miles per hour. Even at those speeds, significant injuries can happen to pedestrians and bicyclists.

When hybrid vehicles travel above 18.6 mph, the noise from the tires and wind help create sound, alerting everyone on the road of the vehicle’s presence. Estimates suggest that the new regulations will help prevent approximately 2,400 injuries every year, but more time is necessary to see if any substantial impact results from the changes.

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