The addition of pedestrian warning systems on sometimes near-silent vehicles like the electric Nissan Leaf and hybrid Toyota Prius has been the subject of much debate, but with the U.S. House and Senate passing a measure that requires hybrids and plug-in vehicles to emit an audible sound to warn nearby pedestrians, like it or not, these noise-making systems will soon become standard on all electric-drive autos sold in the U.S.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that it has taken the first steps toward proposing regulations to "protect unsuspecting pedestrians" from accidents involving near-silent vehicles. Says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
America's streets must be safe for everyone who uses them. As we improve the environment with cleaner cars, we must also consider how it affects those on bikes and on foot.
The NHTSA is beginning to lay out its proposed regulations for pedestrian warning systems. This may take some time, but eventually the agency will evaluate noise-making systems and publish its recommendations in the Federal Register. At that time, the public will have 30 days to submit comments on the NHTSA's proposed rules.

Ahead of that, feel free to cast either a Yea or Nay vote on noisemakers in general in our informal poll below.

Should the government mandate noisemakers for quiet cars?
Yes1558 (21.1%)
No3330 (45.0%)
The idea is solid, but the government should stay out of it.2507 (33.9%)


[Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration]
Show full PR text
NHTSA Studying Environmental Impact of 'Quieter Cars'

Safety agency launches assessment of hybrid and electric vehicles to fulfill Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act

WASHINGTON – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced that the agency is taking the first major step toward proposing regulations that will protect unsuspecting pedestrians and the visually-impaired from accidents involving hybrid and electric vehicles.

"America's streets must be safe for everyone who uses them," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "As we improve the environment with cleaner cars, we must also consider how it affects those on bikes and on foot."

Today's action, which is mandated by the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, will help NHTSA lay the groundwork for a proposed rulemaking to help pedestrians detect the presence of quieter vehicles. NHTSA will evaluate the merits of possible rulemakings, including requiring electric and hybrid carmakers to add sounds that alert the visually-impaired and other pedestrians when these vehicles are operating in certain low speed maneuvers.

"Even as we make giant leaps forward with hybrid and electric vehicles, we must remain laser focused on safety," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "With more and more quiet vehicles on the road, we have to consider their effect on pedestrians."

Once the notice is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 30 days to submit comments on this NHTSA action.