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Do Quiet Hybrid and Electric Cars Pose a Risk to Pedestrians, Bicyclists and Hearing Impaired?

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July 9, 2011

With more and more green vehicles on the road, the government is considering regulations requiring hybrid and electric vehicles to emit sound so people can hear them coming.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on Thursday that the agency has taken the first steps toward regulations meant to protect unsuspecting pedestrians and the visually impaired from accidents with hybrid and electric vehicles.

“America’s streets must be safe for everyone who uses them,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “As we improve the environment with cleaner cars, we must also consider how it affects those on bikes and on foot.”

The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 mandated the actions of the NHSTA. It requires Secretary Hood to study and report to Congress on the minimum level of sound necessary from a motor vehicle to warn the blind and other pedestrians of the operation of the motor vehicle.

“Even as we make giant leaps forward with hybrid and electric vehicles, we must remain laser focused on safety,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “With more and more quiet vehicles on the road, we have to consider their effect on pedestrians.”

USA Today reports that in 2009, a report by the NHTSA found a higher rate of pedestrian related accidents with hybrid vehicles than conventional gas powered vehicles.