Have you ever considered the safety consequences of cars that are actually too quiet?
On Tuesday, President Obama signed the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010. In this law Congress requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ensure that electric and hybrid car manufacturers add noises that alert the blind and other pedestrians.
Because these cars operate so quietly, particularly at low speeds, they are involved in more accidents with pedestrians and cyclists who can’t hear the vehicle coming. This problem is even bigger for the visually impaired who rely on sounds for guidance.
Welcoming the new law, Mitch Pomerantz, President of the American Council of the Blind, said, "As new vehicle technologies become more prevalent in the years to come, The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act will ensure that people who are blind will still be able to travel safely."
Phase one of the research identified requirements for blind pedestrians’ safe mobility and potential countermeasures. It showed that the average person--not just the visually impaired--took significantly longer to detect vehicles operating in electric mode.
Phase two is ongoing. Now that we've learned a quieter fleet could potentially put pedestrians at risk, NHTSA and the Volpe National Transportation Center in Massachusetts are testing synthetic sounds. Congress has asked that electric and hybrid vehicles emit a sound at low speeds so pedestrians recognize when a vehicle is approaching. In our tests, we're trying to find the right balance between quiet roadways and pedestrian safety.
As Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said, “The blind, like all pedestrians, must be able to travel to work, to school, to church, and to other places in our communities, and we must be able to hear vehicles in order to do so."
Because of this important new law, NHTSA will move forward to help everyone have a safe trip, wherever they're going.
To diminish our reliance on oil through hybrid and electric vehicles, we are creating a much quieter fleet. And as we make these leaps forward, I’m glad to know we’re keeping our focus squarely on safety .