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Feds Mull Rules to Prevent Pedestrian Accidents Involving Hybrid Cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will soon propose a rule requiring automakers to install noisemaking devices in their electric and hybrid cars to alert pedestrians.Pedestrians, especially those with visual challenges, may not be able to hear an approaching electric or hybrid car, because of the low levels of noise that these vehicles emit. As a recent study indicates, the result is an increase in car accidents involving pedestrians and these vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has now posted a notice on its website, as the first step towards rules that will mandate manufacturers of electric and hybrid cars to install noisemaking devices in their vehicles.The rule will cover not just cars, but also motorcycles, buses and trucks.Hybrid vehicles can be a pedestrian safety threat, because they emit very low levels of noise.They make much lower noise than internal combustion engines, and as a result, pedestrians may not hear an approaching vehicle.

Some pedestrians may be at a higher risk of being involved in an accident with an electric car.For instance, visually impaired pedestrians who rely very heavily on their sense of hearing to detect accident hazards, may be at a special risk of being involved in a car accident with an ultra quiet electric car.Children, whose senses are not developed fully, may also be at high risk when they fail to hear an approaching car.It is the safety of these pedestrians that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to address.

In October 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that electric and hybrid vehicles were involved in a disproportionate number of accidents involving pedestrians, compared to gas-powered vehicles.An additional study conducted in April 2010, found that electric cars with their low levels of noise were dangerous for visually impaired pedestrians.

Atlanta pedestrian accident lawyers expect this problem to get worse before it gets better.More and more people are opting for electric and hybrid vehicles, because of the gasoline savings they offer.Gas prices have been spiking, and a lot of Americans believe that investing in an electric car is the way to save money on gas.More numbers of noiseless vehicles on the road means a higher risk of pedestrian accidents.The risk could be even greater in cities like Atlanta that are not equipped for pedestrian safety.

Some electric cars currently do come with noisemaking devices.An example is the Chevrolet Volt.However, in these cars, the system is purely voluntary, and the motorist is free to switch the system on or off.This defeats the purpose of having a device like this, which can automatically warn pedestrians of an approaching car.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notice does not mention what kind of system the agency will call for, but it is likely to be a device that emits a sound similar to the sound of an internal combustion engine.As Atlanta pedestrian accident lawyers, we believe that the NHTSA needs to work on balancing new auto technologies with the safety of the most vulnerable like pedestrians or bicyclists.