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Electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf can be great for the environment, but they are often so quiet that pedestrians don’t hear them coming. As a result, more and more road-crossing accidents have occurred. We can only assume as the popularity of these cars rises, more accidents will happen.

To prevent a large increase in injuries and deaths among people hit by all-but silent electric and hydrid gas/electric cars and SUVs, Congress passed the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010. The law requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue standards for how loud motor vehicles without gas- or diesel-powered engines would have to be.

The legislation followed from studies that showed electric cars were involved in more pedestrian accidents than traditional vehicles and that people wearing blindfolds could hear a regular gas-powered car approaching from as far away as 36 feet but could not hear a hybrid until it was within 11 feet.

As our world changes and technology improves, society needs to adapt as quickly as it can in response. Though these hybrid and electric cars have potential for lowering carbon footprints, they could theoretically cause more harm than good if their noise issue isn’t remedied. One solution? Faux engine noise, the NHTSA suggested.


About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.


  1. Gravatar for Jeff O'maley

    This topic was brought up by an article I read that describes vroomtones as becoming a popular downloadable car noises for drivers to customize their vehicle. But in reality why are we catering to blind pedestrians, it should be the blind pedestrians that cater to us by wearing some sort of device that buzzes when an electric car is approaching. But putting a regular engine noise on a silent car just cause is incredibly stupid. Am I going to have to equip my silent sprinkler system with an artificial noise so that I don't spray blind people with water. Either way there will be tones for download or it will become a very popular underground market for conversions into futuristic and customizable sounds whether the NTHSA likes it or not.

  2. Gravatar for William Allen

    Can you name one incident involving an electric vehicle and anything, including pedestrians. Unfortunately the law is already in place for that issue, it is called the HORN.

    By my estimations any given sight impaired person would win the lottery twice in a row and be struck by lightning three times BEFORE any electric vehicle even passes them.

    You people must be Crazy. It is truly time to FIRE Congress if they can't do any better than this type activity. Great AA+ rating for the USA but they get a F-. Get out, go home and get a real jub, if you can find one.


  3. Gravatar for Grey

    Hi John (John Cooper)

    I Find this Study To be unfair! A Top end GAS powered Car can be as practically silent as an Electric Vehicle! I have Seen Quite a few new Ford and,GM and,Jaguar, Etc, Luxury Gasoline powered Sedans moving, and emitting no discernible noise! Did the NHTSA add Those Vehicles to the study? I Worry that the Artificial noise will inevitably use up some of the power stored in the batteries to make unnecessary extra noise pollution ! Did the NHTSA take into account that tire to road noise is quite loud on every car, and making extra noise is ridicules! There is already to many noise Polluting Vehicles on the road now ! I was greatly looking forward to being done with the intense traffic noise, and now someone is making a law to force automotive makers to make these practically silent vehicles make extra noise! Meanwhile Upper quality practically silent GAS Powered Cars can slip through this new ruling unscathed!


  4. Gravatar for Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton
    Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton

    Thank you for the feedback. I think this law provides a benefit to society. It will not only help blind individuals, but also kids on bikes, skateboards, and so forth. Keep in mind, audio input plays a part in judging speed and the direction of danger.

  5. Gravatar for JP White

    I find it strange that the LEAF would be singled out in this article, especially since it DOES emit a noise at speed below 19MPh specifically to make pedestrians aware of it.

    Why do we need regulation if the Manufacturers are already incorporating this technology. Surely regulation is only indicated if the industry is unwilling or unable to self-regulate.

    Govt at its worst.

  6. Gravatar for Terry

    Idiot regulators. We already have a noise maker on all cars: (wait for it) IT's A HORN!!! Instead of getting out of the way, the government consistently takes the wrong approach. What next? - Ah-Oooga boxes on pedestrians?

    And for the commentator writing that this regulation provides a benefit to society, go save an owl.

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