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Pedestrian Safety And Quiet Cars

Comprehensive, "cradle to grave" studies of electric versus gas and diesel-powered cars show that electric vehicles are better for the environment. As the technology gains acceptance, electric vehicles will likely become better and cheaper. More electric cars on the road means a number of benefits, but it is not without challenges.

Accidents in which pedestrians and bicycle riders are struck by electric cars that they never knew were coming are happening more frequently. Electric cars are often significantly quieter than their gas and diesel counterparts. That removes one cue used by pedestrians and bikers to beware of a vehicle approaching from behind. In response to this problem, Congress passed a law in 2010 to make the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issue a regulation forcing the makers of electric vehicles and other quiet cars to add sounds to their products. The NHTSA missed its deadline to issue that rule and is now estimating that the final rule won't be complete until April 2015. Automakers are asking that the compliance deadlines be delayed.

Two auto trade groups are seeking the delay, citing "uncertainty" as to what the final requirements will be. The automakers contend that they will not have time to develop and implement the necessary technology by the compliance date. They have asked the NHTSA to drop or at least push back the phase-in schedule, currently set to begin in 2016.

NHTSA research suggests that hybrid vehicles are 19 percent more likely to be involved in a pedestrian accident than a gas or diesel vehicles and 38 percent more likely to be in a bicycle accident. Additional sounds, particularly at slower speeds where electric vehicles are virtually silent, may help reduce these accidents by putting walkers and bicycle riders on their guard.

Source: The Detroit News, "Automakers urge NHTSA to delay 'quiet car' rules" by David Shepardson, 24 July 2014

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