Traffic Safety Administration Prepares to Implement Green Car "Noisemaker" Regulations

By Joseph Castro | July 12, 2011 12:53 pm

spacing is importantThe Toyota Prius is one of the cars targeted by the new regulations.

Late last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that it will now begin assessing new regulations for green cars, whose quiet engines may pose a danger to unaware pedestrians. This is the agency’s first major step towards implementing the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, which requires automobile manufactures to equip new electric and hybrid vehicles with sound systems that alert pedestrians of the approaching machines.

But the move has come under fire by some green car advocates, who stress a lack of studies showing that such warning systems would actually make the streets safer for pedestrians:

The difficulty is that there’s simply not enough data on actual pedestrian injuries and deaths attributable to quieter cars. Part of that reflects a lack of categories to reflect such a problem, and the low incidence of pedestrian injuries in general.

[A] 2009 NHTSA report highlighted its own weaknesses: It was based on data from only 12 states (the ones that record Vehicle Identification Numbers) and limited to injuries from 2000, when hybrids first entered the U.S. market. The result: a small, possibly non-representative sample set.

Read more at Green Car Reports. Listen to sample “noisemakers” at Scientific American.

Image: Flickr/M 93

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • cmnsns

    The vehicles are becoming less noisy, annoying, and less harmful to everyone’s health as a result, so why don’t we deliberately make them loud again? Oh, what a great concept this is.

    Teaching people to look both ways before they cross the street really does wonders for pedestrian safety.

  • zbird

    The only benefit I can foresee is that it _might_ be beneficial to the blind. I think a lot more study is needed though. People already get run over by noisy cars – I’m not sure that loud cars are the answer.

  • Geack

    I remember reading as a kid in one of those “silly laws that are still around” books that in somewhere or other, it was illegal to drive a car at night without having someone walking fifty feet ahead swinging a lantern to warn people you’re coming. This strikes me as similar: a knee-jerk response to a problem that likely won’t prove problematic. On the other hand, people around here swear by those little whistles you mount on your bumper to scare deer off the road at night… Maybe our future cars will roll along playing music.

  • Dave in Calif

    I would like mine to sound like a 3000 hp 130dB funny car.

  • Steve

    It should sound out a warning that says, “Caution! Pretentious Douche Approaching!”

  • Geack

    Dave, Hell Yeah!! Except these days I wear plugs trackside even at the little 400 horse street classes. Cumulative hearing loss sucks :-)


    My only friend with a Prius is the least pretentious guy you’ll ever meet. Straight-up accounting dweeb. And he’s gonna get a Volt in a couple months. 40 mile elec range – 30 mile commute x relatively cheap electricity here in OH = $$$. Can’t argue with the numbers.

  • Chris the Canadian

    Stupid idea. Cmnsns is spot on. Let’s take the responsibility for crossing the street safely away from pedestrians. Ridiculous. How about people not jay walking across busy streets at rush hour, drivers paying attention to where they are going and not tweeting/eating/texting/talking on the phone/adjusting the radio/or putting on make up while behind the wheel, people waiting for their light to turn green so they can walk, or not running across an intersection when your light is red.

  • tdk

    this does about the same thing as requiring adults to wear bicycle helmets. Sure there are occasions that it would make the difference, but putting an emphasis on saftey in the first place would be more effective.

  • Matt B.

    If there’s a “low incidence of pedestrian injuries in general”, why are we worried about this?

  • Peter Danbury

    Getting more data is, as usual, a good idea, but it seems obvious to me that hybrid cars (or “chicken killers”, as they are called in Hawaii) are dangerously quiet. I applaud Toyota and other pioneers for giving us hybrids and all-electric vehicles. I have wanted a hybrid for a long time but am only now considering getting one because third-party companies are starting to meet the demand for noise-makers. I don’t know why this is so hard to grasp for some people. We all rely on not only our eyes but our ears as well to be safe pedestrians. (Blind people of course rely almost exlusively on their ears.) Hybrids and all-electric vehicles, minus noise-makers, strip us of that layer of safety. So, of course, they are involved in more accidents involving pedestrians, as studies have shown. Another study demonstrated that blind-folded subjects can detect gas-powered cars approaching from 36 feet away, on average, while hybrids are detectable a mere 11 feet away. Think about that. I don’t support helmet or seat-belt laws. If someone values comfort over safety for themselves I think that’s their choice. But when it comes to endangering others, that’s completely different. Three cheers for the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act! It’s about time! Though it should be called the Pedestrian Safety Restoration Act.

  • Dominick Cavallario

    This site is really a walk-by means of for all of the information you wanted about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse right here, and also you’ll undoubtedly uncover it.

  • John M. Tax

    When people are treated as stupid or inferior, they tend to behave that way. Treating anyone as intelligent and alert and that behavior will arise. It is about time we stopped treating society as a herd of morons. You want to stop traffic accidents? Bolt a sword to the dash of the car pointing at the driver’s throat. Then you’ll see safe driving – but then we are treating people like morons again….


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