Maine Pedestrian Accidents & Hybrid Vehicle Risks

Competing automakers for years worked to out-silence one another.

That is, they wanted to make a vehicle that purred as opposed to roared. They wanted the ride to be smooth and the sound to be as quiet as possible.

Then, it seemed like the hybrid and electric cars won that war, making nary a sound at all as they backed out, rounded a corner or pulled into a parking space.

However, our Bangor car accident lawyers aren’t the only ones who have noted the inherent risks.

The problem is that when a car doesn’t make any sound, no one knows it’s coming. People expect to hear a car that’s racing into a parking lot or backing out of an alley. Children are taught to stop and not only look but listen for vehicles that they may not be able to see coming.

This has been an issue that the National Highway Traffic Safety Association has grappled with for several years. In 2010, the issue of silent electric and hybrid vehicles was written into the 2010 Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act as something that would need to be addressed in the near future.

Now, the time has come.

The NHTSA has proposed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141, which would mandate that all electric and hybrid vehicles meet minimum sound requirements so pedestrians and bicyclists will be able to determine the presence of those vehicle and from which direction when they are operating at lower speeds (which is when they are the quietest).

The proposal does provide flexibility for manufacturers in terms of varying sounds for different makes and models. However, the sounds must still be recognizable to those on the street as being the sound of a vehicle approaching.

Whatever sound the manufacturers choose, it must be heard over a wide range of other street noises. There must also be uniformity for each make and model of a certain vehicle.

The noise must be activated when the vehicle is traveling at 18 miles per hour or less. Any speed above that, and the vehicle makes sufficient noise on its own.

The NHTSA is hoping that the implementation of this rule is going to result in nearly 3,000 fewer pedestrian and bicyclist injuries over the life of each model year of hybrid vehicle.

The NHTSA’s final 248-page proposal also indicates that discounts would be provided to hybrid vehicle drivers who agree to have their vehicle retro-fitted with a sound-emitting device by 2016.

As it stands, there are approximately 1.4 million hybrid vehicles being driven in the U. ., which accounts for just 0.6 percent of all cars on the road today.

When the NHTSA looked at crash data from 2000 to 2006, they discovered that hybrid vehicles had a 40 percent higher pedestrian crash rate than vehicles that ran on gas. In particular, situations that involved low-speed maneuvers (back out, pull in, corner turns) revealed that hybrids were twice as likely to be involved in a pedestrian crash than other types of vehicles.

In 2009, hybrid vehicles were involved in 186 pedestrian crashes, compared to 5,700 involving gas-run vehicles. Hybrid vehicles were involved 116 bicycle crashes, while gas-run vehicles were involved in 3,050. It seems a drastic difference, but when you consider that hybrid vehicles account for just 0.6 percent of those on the road, theysshould only have been involved in 35 pedestrian accidents and 21 bicycle accidents.

Hopefully, once these sound requirements are fully in effect, we will begin to see some marked decreases in these figures.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact us at 1-800-804-2004 or read more on our website.

Additional Resources:
Electric Cars Must Make Noises Can Hear Under U. . Rule, Jan. 8, 2013, By Angela Greiling Keane, Bloomberg Businessweek

More Blog Entries:
Report: Maine Car Accidents Preventable With Tougher Laws, Jan. 22, 2013, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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