Efforts are being made to require hybrid and electric vehicle makers to install systems in vehicles to mimic routine engine noise. In most cases, these systems involve installing some type of speakers on the vehicle. The speakers point frontward to direct sound ahead of the vehicle, such as the sound of a traditional engine, or other noise. The purpose is to make sure pedestrians, bicyclists and other drivers can hear the vehicle coming.
An experienced pedestrian accident lawyer knows installation of sound systems in hybrid or electric "green vehicles" could save lives. As more green cars are on the road due to tax incentives, concerns about burning fossil fuels, and lower prices, pedestrians are encountering more hybrid and electric vehicles. These cars are nearly silent without sound systems in place, which is very different from pedestrians' traditional experience with cars approaching.
Hybrid Cars Are Silent and Pedestrians Don't Hear them Coming
Because hybrid cars are silent, pedestrians cannot hear them coming. Most motorists rely on the sound of a vehicle approaching to let them know if they need to look to cross safely. Looking both ways is important, but it is not always possible to see a necessary distance because of road curves or things like plants or fences obscuring the view. A pedestrian can hear a car coming before he sees it in a great number of situations, and can make the choice not to start crossing the road. Pedestrians who have visual impairments and who are blind also rely on engine noise to let them know when it is safe to cross the road.
Green cars are so silent, no one can rely on their ears to know the vehicles are approaching. Daily Mail reports on a YouGov poll in which 3/4 of respondents said these cars are dangerous for pedestrians with sight difficulties as well as for children and the elderly. Concerns are not unfounded; past data shows a pedestrian is 40 percent more likely to be run over by a hybrid or electric vehicle compared with a traditional car with a gas engine or diesel engine.
More hybrids mean more risks. Between 2012 and 2013, a 54 percent increase in accidents with green vehicles was reported. Affordable green vehicles entering the mainstream are likely to make the problem worse. Some car manufacturers are voluntarily adding sounds, but advocates believe this should be required. EU regulations will mandate the addition of noisemakers starting in 2021, but many more people could be harmed before the requirement goes into effect. Safety advocates also urge a mandate to prevent noisemakers from being turned off by drivers once installed.
Pedestrians need to be aware they may not always be able to see a car approaching them. Drivers of electric and hybrid cars should also be alert to the fact their vehicles can present added risk and should ensure they are watching carefully for pedestrians.