Electric Vehicles Can Be Silent Killers

 Posted on June 29, 2023 in Car Accidents

Chicago car accident lawyer for electric vehiclesBy Daniel M. Kotin 

The Governors Highway Safety Association recently released data showing that deaths in pedestrian and bicycle accidents in the United States are at the highest they have been in forty years. The group attributes some of the increase to the rising popularity of trucks and SUVs. But another factor is undoubtedly the increase of essentially silent electric vehicles on our roadways.

I have been driving an electric car for about six weeks now. I have not struck anyone, but I have already experienced a handful of occasions wherein pedestrians have simply walked into my path. It has become enough of a concern that I felt compelled to do some research.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, electric cars are 37% more likely to collide with pedestrians than cars with internal combustion engines. These collisions usually occur at lower speeds when the sound of the combustion engine is primarily responsible for alerting pedestrians to an approaching vehicle. At higher speeds, the sound of tires on the roadway and wind caused by the vehicle suffice to alert pedestrians to a moving vehicle. But those other noises do not occur at lower speeds.

In response to this data, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ruled that electric vehicles must emit warning sounds when traveling below 18.6 mph. I tested this on my car and learned that at a low speed, it emits a faint, musical, almost spaceship-like sound. While it is true that this noise is audible to nearby pedestrians, nothing about that sound would alert a person to the fact that it is emanating from an approaching car. This, I believe, explains the multiple close calls that I have had with pedestrians in a few short weeks.

So what is the solution to this problem? Some suggest that electric cars should be required to emit a sound that mimics a combustion engine. But that would undo the reduction in noise pollution that is one of the selling points of the EV industry. More likely, I think that pedestrians will have to learn to rely on sight, not sound, when navigating streets or parking lots. Until then, we as drivers must be extra vigilant to the fact that unknowing pedestrians may inadvertently step off a curb or cross into our paths.

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