Implementation is quickly approaching for a federal safety standard for new hybrid and electric cars, also known as HE vehicles. For those who are hearing or visually impaired, the new requirement can’t come soon enough.
According to the new standard, hybrid and electric cars weighing 10,000 pounds or less will be required to make an audible noise when moving at speeds up to 19 mph for the safety of pedestrians, specifically, those with hearing or vision impairments.
Reducing Pedestrian Injuries and Deaths
The new standard, which will be mandatory in 2019, was crafted with the hope that it will cut down on the number of impaired pedestrians being injured or killed by hybrid or electric cars.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says the change will help prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year.
Concern over the dangers of silent cars has been voiced by organizations including the National Federation of the Blind. The noise generated by standard vehicles with internal-combustion engines (ICE) can be heard by the impaired, while HE vehicles make very little noise while moving at slower speeds.
As noted in an NHTSA study:
The results from the HE versus ICE relative comparisons and case-control study indicate that HE vehicles have approximately 20 percent higher likelihood (OR=1.20) of pedestrian crashes than ICE vehicles if all speed maneuvers are included and only the engine type (HE or ICE) is considered, and this likelihood of pedestrian crash of HE vehicles is approximately 50 percent higher if only low-speed maneuvers are considered.
In March 2016, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimated that when tallied, there would be a 10 percent increase in the number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in 2015. Referring to a study by Sam Schwartz Consulting, one of the authors, Richard Retting, said:
Pedestrian safety is clearly a growing problem across the country. It is important to understand the data underlying these crashes so states and localities can apply the right mix of engineering, education and enforcement to counteract this troubling trend.
The authors of the study believe many factors are causing an increase incidence of pedestrian accidents. First, due to lower gas prices, there are more vehicles on the road. In addition, as vehicles become safer for drivers and passengers, pedestrians are still very vulnerable to injuries when they are involved in an accident with an automobile.
Another factor in pedestrian accidents is phone use. The National Safety Council refers to it as distracted walking. According to the council, it’s becoming a huge problem. From 2000 to 2011, there were an estimated 11,101 injuries due to distracted walking. The report notes that it’s just as important to not use a phone while walking as it is to avoid use while driving since both are distractions that can lead to accidents.
So, for those who are hearing or sight impaired, help is on the way when it comes to electric or hybrid vehicles and having those vehicles equipped with some form of a noisemaker. This will certainly help impaired pedestrians negotiate streets in a safer manner. For those not impaired, it’s vital that you look up and observe your surroundings. It’s not worth the risk of being hit or falling because you were too busy making a call or sending a text.