MSU professor and students study the emerging hazards of electric vehicle noise

MSU Professor of Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David L. Fender, along with students in the MSU ASSE (American Society of Safety Engineers) Student Section recently conducted a study examining if the newly popular electric vehicles are too quiet. Shortly after the conclusion of the study, Dr. Fender realized the research could be a useful article. He submitted his topic to Professional Safety, and had his article published in the January 2011 edition.

Dr. Fender was interested in studying this topic after MSU purchased some smaller neighborhood type electric vehicles to complete utility type tasks around campus. Theses vehicles have many advantages such as lower operating and maintenance costs.

In the study Dr. Fender conducted, it was pointed out that when operated at low speeds, electronic vehicles are very quiet. This can be hazardous because pedestrians may not notice their approach. He was especially concerned with what this meant for blind people who rely on their hearing to sense an approaching vehicle before crossing a street or when walking.

The students who were involved in the study were from the ASSE Student Section. This professional club allows students many opportunities for professional development through listening to speakers and other activities, as well as regularly conducting research. With Dr. Fenders guidance, four students formed a core group that put much of the research together and did most of the set-up wok. In addition, many other ASSE members served as subjects.

The study makes several conclusions and comparisons, and through this research Dr. Fender came up with several recommendations for improving the safety of these vehicles. He recommends for companies purchasing these vehicles to consider the risks of theses low noise vehicles, to make sure the vehicle operators thoroughly understand the risks, to have the manufacturer install appropriate noise generation capabilities and to make the vehicles more visible to pedestrians by installing a strobe light.

When asked how he felt about having this article appear in Professional Safety, Dr. Fender said, “getting published is always a good day.” He added, “in this case, I was most please with the cover photo they used.” After the editor requested some photos in hopes of using them one the cover, Dr. Fender featured an MSU electric vehicle. “ I did not know if they would leave the Murray State license plate or white it out,” he said, “I was very pleased that MSU was prominently displayed on the cover.”

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