By: Jeffrey Lapin

Volume Bars and NHTSAThe U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141, which would require hybrid and electric vehicles meet minimum sound standards (volume) in order to help make all pedestrians and bicyclists more aware of these vehicles. These types of vehicles pose more danger at low speeds because they are relatively quiet. The NHTSA was mandated to create a volume standard by the bipartisan Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 (PSEA).


In announcing the proposed standard, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated:

Safety is our highest priority, and this proposal will help keep everyone using our nation’s streets and roadways safe, whether they are motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians, and especially the blind and visually impaired.

Electric and hybrid vehicles, which do not rely on traditional gas or diesel-powered engines at low speeds, make them much quieter and their approach more difficult to detect. Proposed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141 is intended so that pedestrians are able to detect the presence, direction and location of electric and hybrid vehicles when they are operated at low speeds. The NHTSA determined the speed threshold is 18 miles per hour and the proposed standard would require these types of vehicle to emit a sound that is detectable to pedestrians and bicyclists under a wide range of street noises and other ambient background sounds below this speed.

Vehicle manufacturers would have a range of choices for the sounds of its vehicles although each vehicle of the same make and model would have to emit the same sound or set of sounds.The NHTSA posted sample sounds, which can be located on the NHTSA’s website at: Minimum Sound Requirements for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

The NHTSA estimates that if the proposed Standard was implemented there would be 2,800 fewer pedestrian and bicyclist injuries over the life of each model year of hybrid cars, trucks and vans and low speed vehicles, as compared to vehicles without sound.

The public will have 60 days after the proposed Standard is published in the Federal Register to comment.Electric car image


U.S. Department of Transportation’s NHTSA Press Release: U.S. Department of Transportation Proposes New Minimum Sound Requirements for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles
The full Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141 proposal can be viewed here: Minimum Sound Requirements for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles



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