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Are electric cars silently deadly?

Electric and hybrid vehicles may be the wave of the future. These cars have the potential to reduce our reliance on gasoline and improve the environment. While electric cars are currently more expensive than their gas-burning counterparts, it may be only a matter of time before these vehicles are competitively priced or even cheaper than the alternative. The news is not all good for electric and hybrid cars, however. One trait of these vehicles may be contributing to an increase in deadly pedestrian accidents and collisions with bicycles. Electric cars are quiet. 

The government responds

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is establishing new rules to combat the problem, according to NPR. The new rules fulfill the guidelines set forth in the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2011. Going forward, the makers of hybrid and electric cars and other vehicles under five tons will have to include an external speaker that emits an audible tone when the vehicle is in reverse or going less than 19 miles per hour. The tone will alert pedestrians and cyclists of the approach of these vehicles and, hopefully, reduce collisions. The NHTSA estimated that 2,400 pedestrian injuries per year would be eliminated once all affected vehicles had the safety device in place. 

What's that sound?

The final rule put forth by the NHTSA leaves automakers some wiggle room in terms of the noises required. Automakers are currently reviewing the rule, but they are keen to avoid paying for a device that will irritate potential buyers. There is also concern about putting a greater burden on hybrid and electric vehicles than on conventionally-powered cars and trucks. Cars don't all sound the same, so car makers don't want all electric cars to sound the same. It is not yet clear how the NHTSA will decide what sounds are sufficient to alert pedestrians to the approach of an electric car. 

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