NHTSA Tells ‘Quiet Car’ Makers to Make Enough Noise to Protect Pedestrians

AASHTO Journal, 18 November 2016

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it is adding a vehicle noise requirement for all newly built hybrid and electric light-duty vehicles to help protect pedestrians.

“The new federal safety standard will help pedestrians who are blind, have low vision and other pedestrians detect the presence, direction and location of these vehicles when they are traveling at low speeds, which will help prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year once all hybrids in the fleet are properly equipped,” the announcement said.

capitol0816.jpgThe new standard, labeled Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141, responds to Congress’ mandate in the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act that hybrid and electric vehicles meet minimum sound requirements to provide an audible alert for blind and visually impaired pedestrians.

Under the new rule, manufacturers have until Sept. 1, 2019, to equip all new hybrid and electric vehicles with sounds that meet the new federal safety standard. Half of new hybrid and electric vehicles must be in compliance one year before the final deadline.

NHTSA is requiring hybrid and electric light vehicles with four wheels and a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less to make audible noise when traveling in reverse or forward at speeds up to 30 kilometers per hour (about 19 miles per hour). The sound alert is not required at higher speeds, because NHTSA said such other factors as tire and wind noise provide adequate audible warning to pedestrians.

“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.”

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind called the requirement “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.”

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