WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has taken the first major step toward proposing regulations to protect unsuspecting pedestrians and the visually impaired from accidents involving hybrid and electric vehicles, including school buses.
"America's streets must be safe for everyone who uses them," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "As we improve the environment with cleaner cars, we must also consider how it affects those on bikes and on foot."
The new 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 vehicle makers to add sounds that alert the visually impaired and other pedestrians when these vehicles are operating in certain low-speed maneuvers.
A spokesperson for NHTSA confirmed to SBF that school buses are covered by the act.
In a 2009 report to Congress, NHTSA attempted to quantify the problem of hybrid crashes with pedestrians. The agency examined the incidence rates for crashes involving hybrid electric vehicles and pedestrians under different circumstances, using data from 12 states, and compared the results to those for internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
“This study, which was based on a small sample size, found an increased rate of pedestrian crashes for hybrid vehicles compared to their peer ICE vehicles,” NHTSA said in its new notice of intent.