Electric cars can be silent killers, safety experts warn

Posted on May 15, 2012

While electric cars become more prevalent and more technologically advanced, they become increasingly dangerous to pedestrians, especially the blind, according to traffic safety advocates, for a safety issue that for many automakers seems more like a sales incentive: their whisper quiet engines. According to a recent New York Times review of the new electric model Ford Focus, the vehicle’s engine is the least noisy yet, emitting noise at a volume so low, the reviewer compares it to the vacuum of deep outer space. The federal traffic guidelines laid forth in the 2010 Pedestrian Safety Act require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to adopt regulations for the minimum amount of vehicle noise allowed under law, not the maximum level as is established in all previous laws regulating automobile noise. According to recent traffic safety studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, hybrid and electric vehicles are 66 percent more likely to collide with cyclists and 37 percent more likely to collide with pedestrians than gasoline powered automobiles when traveling at speeds lower than 35 miles per hour.  Though electric cars have resurfaced in the public conscious in the past few years, they’ve been around for more than a century, and the safety hazard their quieter engines pose to pedestrians is just as old. Though some companies have attempted to solve this dilemma by equipping their vehicles with electronically generated tones, advocates for blind rights and safety, however, insist that vehicles should produce the traditionally expected noises associated with gasoline powered vehicles.

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