Laws can’t do everything
July 5, 2019
by Ivan Raconteur

A story that caught my attention this week reminded me that we live in a world where people will try to regulate everything.

In this case, the European Union (EU) decided that electric cars are too quiet. This, according to the EU, puts pedestrians at risk.

As a result, a new rule that took effect Monday in the EU states all new four-wheel electric vehicles must be fitted with a device, that sounds like a traditional engine.

A car’s acoustic vehicle alert system (AVAS) must sound when reversing or traveling below 12 mph. The thinking behind this, according to the EU, is that the cars are most likely to be near pedestrians when they are backing up or driving slowly.

Starting in 2021, all electric cars (not just new models) will be required to have an AVAS.

The new rule will give pedestrians more confidence when crossing the road, according to the EU.

At the risk of over-simplifying the matter, I can’t help thinking the problem would be solved if pedestrians watched where they were going, and drivers paid attention to the road and watched where they were going.

“Look both ways before crossing the street” is still good advice, just as it was when we were children.

Assuming that requiring vehicles to have artificial noise makers will solve the problem is wishful thinking.

For the sake of comparison, consider the fact that train versus pedestrian collisions are common. Trains are much larger than electric cars, they tend to make more noise, and they travel on a predictable path, and yet some pedestrians can’t seem to avoid trains.

There are considerably more points of potential conflict between cars and pedestrians than there are between trains and pedestrians. If pedestrians can’t see trains coming, it seems unlikely they will see cars coming, even those equipped with an AVAS.

In law, there is a concept know as comparative negligence. Applied to this situation, we might conclude that drivers and pedestrians each have a responsibility to avoid a collision.

If drivers fail to pay attention to the road, and if pedestrians fail to look where they are going, no hokey noise-making device will solve the problem.

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