Silent Running: Hybrid Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has weighed in on the safety risks of driving hybrid and electric vehicles. Their conclusion was that hybrid and electric vehicles are more hazardous to pedestrians and cyclists. Electric engines are near silent compared to combustion engines and don’t give the same audible warning as previous cars, especially when traveling at low speeds. Children and the visually impaired are often cited as being the most at risk, and the low noise engines are reported to be putting many pedestrians at higher risk of an automobile collision.
Although new technologies can usher in new risks, moving vehicles have always posed dangers to pedestrians. In 1899, Henry Bliss was run over by an electric cab, giving him the dubious distinction of being the first US auto fatality. But in the same era, horse drawn carriages were taking quite a toll: In New York in1900, 200 pedestrians were killed by horse drawn carriages.
Car manufacturers are reacting to the new threat by adding artificial sounds to hybrid vehicles to warn pedestrians. The Nissan Leaf EV now makes “wooshing” sounds despite its near silent engine, and Ford held a Facebook poll for users to vote on which artificial engine noise their new car should make, having posted a series of potential noises on YouTube. The noises ranged from more traditional engine sounds to futuristic spaceship noises. These fake engine noises are still being rolled out so they may not stick around since reactions appear to be mixed.
While the ostensible danger of silent vehicles is to pedestrians, drivers can also be at risk of not hearing a hybrid, increasing the potential for collisions. Plus, responsible drivers need to be hyper vigilant about the safety implications for pedestrians. Striking a pedestrian is a highly traumatic event that can result in injury or death. Depending on fault, it can also result in criminal charges or lawsuits. The liability portion of your auto insurance offers some financial protection should you strike a pedestrian. According to the Insurance Information Institute, liability insurance is compulsory in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Only New Hampshire does not have a compulsory auto insurance liability law. The chart on this page offers a breakdown of minimal liability limits for auto insurance by state.
If you live in New England and have questions about your auto insurance coverage, why not connect with a Renaissance Alliance insurance agent near you?

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