Hybrid and electric cars are designed to help save the planet by reducing reliance on fossil fuels, but they may be costing pedestrians their lives. An experienced pedestrian accident attorney knows walkers routinely rely not just on their eyes to tell when cars are coming but also on their ears. Hybrid and electric cars do not have the same engine noises as typical motor vehicles with gas powered engines and this is creating a significant risk for pedestrians.
While walkers should ensure they are looking carefully before crossing the road and not simply going across if they don’t hear engine noise, drivers of electric and hybrid cars need also to be aware that pedestrians may not see their vehicles. In some cases, artificial engine noises are actually being added to electric and hybrid cars to reduce pedestrian accident risks caused by these nearly-silent vehicles.
Hybrid and Electric Cars Endanger Pedestrians
Daily Mail reports pedestrians are 40 percent more likely to be run over by a hybrid car or electric car than a vehicle with a gas or diesel engine. This is becoming a big problem as motorists increasingly purchase electric vehicles. From 2012 to 2013, there was a 54 percent increase in the number of pedestrian/vehicle collisions involving hybrid cars.
Motorists recognize the cars present an added danger, especially to pedestrians who are blind or who have limited sight. More than 3/4 of respondents to a YouGov poll said quiet hybrid and electric cars make the roads less safe for the visually impaired. A similar number of respondents said silent vehicles also made roads more dangerous to children and seniors. These vehicles are likely to surprise people who are travelling on foot and expect to hear engine noise before a car comes upon them.
Hybrid vehicle manufacturers are working on artificial sound generators so pedestrians can hear vehicles coming. Typically, these systems involve attaching speakers to the hood of the vehicle. The speakers point in the direction the vehicle is moving, so there is minimal annoyance to those around the car. The speakers use different types of sounds, from a rumbling sound similar to a traditional engine to the sound of an old computerized motor to a squeaking sound.
European Union regulations will require noise generators be installed in quiet cars; however, the mandate does not require noisemakers to be installed in new vehicles until 2021. Safety advocates for the visually impaired warn there will be thousands more dangerous green cars on the road before this time, and more people will lose their lives because of the delay in imposing the requirement. A campaign has been initiated to require governments to impose a requirement sooner and to mandate the systems not only be included in vehicles but also be prevented from being turned off.
Car manufacturers may choose to fit their vehicles with noise-making devices even though there is no current requirement, as this can help to save pedestrian lives.