When it comes to pedestrian safety versus eliminating noise pollution, the Brits have made their decision pretty clear: the noise has got to go. They feel that the Backup Pedestrian Warning Signal that occurs when the Nissan Leaf is in reverse must be deactivated or altered so that it may be turned off, because it’s just too loud.
Nissan has slightly delayed delivery to the U.K. because the U.K. law states that such sounds must be able to be turned off between the hours of 11:00 pm and 6:00 am. Meanwhile, deliveries of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid to the US have been delayed because this vehicle has the option of turning off its backup warning system. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are pending rules that prohibit drivers from switching these warning systems off. (Talk about mixed signals – Ed.)
Hybrids and electric vehicles with an all-electric drive mode were found to be twice as likely over any other type of vehicle to be involved in pedestrian accidents at intersections and crosswalks according to a 2009 study done by the NHTSA because they are so quiet, and many people are used to hearing traffic as a means to avoid it. Due to this study, Nissan decided that it would equip the Leaf with the pedestrian warning system, which would only be activated when the Leaf is moving at low speeds.
So what shall it be? Giving in to a little bit of noise that will ultimately protect pedestrians – or giving drivers the ability to switch off their warning systems when they may not be necessary? Tom Barnard, a Nissan spokesman in the U.K. confirmed that they are disabling the reverse warning systems because of demands from the U.K. government. However, Barnard, points out that they have not yet mentioned the “whoosh”-like sound that the vehicle makes when accelerating.
Cars are going to make some noise whether we like it or not, and if they do so in order to protect others, than so be it – I think we can handle it. The British, however, seem a bit too bothered by it. Maybe they'll change their tune (after Nissan changes theirs.)
Source: Edmunds Green Car Advisor