U.S. Finalizes “Quiet Car” Rules to Protect Pedestrians

toyota electric vehicles

This week, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration signed off on long-delayed “quiet car” rules. They require electric vehicles and hybrids to emit alert sounds so pedestrians can hear them.

The new rules apply to hybrid and electric cars, SUVs, trucks and buses weighing up to 10,000 pounds. The audible sound will be required when vehicles are traveling at speeds up around 19 miles an hour. They’re not required at higher speeds because other factors like tire and wind noise are thought to adequately warn pedestrians. 

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. While the rules set minimum sound requirements, they don’t specify what sounds must be emitted. So we’ll have to see where automakers go with that one.

Making cars noisier to protect pedestrians won’t be cheap. Auto regulators estimate it will cost the industry about $39 million a year to add an external waterproof speaker to comply with the new rule. Some automakers like Tesla, Nissan and Toyota will shell out more than others since they have more electric vehicles.

The NHTSA estimates the odds of a hybrid vehicle being involved in a pedestrian crash are 19 percent greater compared to traditional gas-powered vehicles. The whole idea is for people to be able to hear them coming so they can avoid them.

Currently, about 125,000 pedestrians and bicyclists are hurt each year in crashes involving quiet vehicles.  Auto regulators estimate the newly required audible alert will help prevent 2,400 pedestrian injuries a year by 2020. The new rules will also help those who are visually impaired.  

“This is a common-sense tool to help pedestrians, especially folks who are blind or have low vision, make their way safely,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind in a statement.

Regulators had originally proposed extending the sound requirements to all types of vehicles, including motorcycles and larger trucks and buses. The new rules were supposed to be in place by 2014, but they got caught up in government red tape.

To find a link for the fine print of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141 click here.

Photo Credit: Toyota
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