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New Rule for Electric Cars: U.S. Government Says They Need to Be Less Quiet

Pedestrians may soon feel a little safer on city streets thanks to a new national rule on quiet cars. The takeaway? Electric cars must make more noise.

The U.S. government finally issued its rules for noisemaking devices in EVs and hybrid cars — all new vehicles must now emit noises that alert pedestrians to their presence.

Because these cars function almost silently on electric power, lawmakers have been concerned they pose a greater safety risk to pedestrians than noisier non-EV hybrid cars.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was directed by Congress to issue these rules in 2010, but they have been delayed on multiple occasions.

The new federal safety standard will assist blind or low-vision pedestrians, along with others, detect the presence, direction and location of electric cars and hybrids traveling at low speeds, which will help prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year once all hybrids in the fleet are properly equipped.

“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.”

The new rule specifies that all hybrid and electric light vehicles with four wheels and a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less will be required to make audible noise when moving in reverse or forward at speeds of up to 30 kilometers per hour (about 19 miles per hour). If the vehicle is moving faster, the sound alert is not required because other factors, such as wind noise, provide decent audible warning to pedestrians.

“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. “With pedestrian fatalities on the rise, it is vitally important we take every action to protect the most vulnerable road users.”

Electric car and hybrid vehicle manufacturers have until Sept. 1, 2019, to outfit 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.

Kudos to rules that make pedestrian safety a top priority.

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