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Bill would help blind be aware of hybrids

April 09, 2008|From the Associated Press

BALTIMORE — A bill intended to protect blind people and other pedestrians from the dangers posed by quiet cars will be introduced today in Congress.

The measure would require the Transportation Department to establish safety standards for hybrids and other vehicles that make little discernible noise, including an audible means for alerting people that cars are nearby.

"The beneficial trend toward more environmentally friendly vehicles has had the unintended effect of placing the blind and other pedestrians in danger," said Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), who is sponsoring the bill with Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.).

The National Federation of the Blind has pushed for the legislation to protect those who rely on their hearing to know when to cross the street.

While the organization is not aware of people being struck by cars they couldn't hear, NFB President Marc Maurer has said he fears it's only a matter of time.

Preliminary results of an ongoing study at UC Riverside have indicated the cars pose some risk. The study found that hybrids operating at slow speeds must be 40% closer to pedestrians than combustion-engine vehicles before they make enough noise for their location to be detected.

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