The growing ubiquity of hybrid and electric cars on our roadways is a boon to technology companies and a benefit to the environment, but as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration alerts, these cars create noise that is insufficient at low speeds to warn unsuspecting pedestrians, bicyclists and the visually impaired of their presence. As the risks that are presented by these silent deadly hazards continue to spread as more of these cars are built and sold, this is surely to be a hotbed for future litigation.
NHTSA’s proposal would require electric cars to create additional noise at speeds lower than 18 miles per hour. Although the proposal would allow car manufacturers to pick the sounds the cars make from a range of choices, we can be sure that the auto industry will resist such measures.
The public has 60 days to comment on the proposed rule. The agency will use public suggestions to write a final rule. NHTSA estimates that the proposed measures would prevent 2,800 pedestrian and cyclist injuries during the life cycle of each model year of electric and hybrid vans, trucks and cars.