According to an AP story, Congress is about to introduce a bill to investigate a mandatory noise level for all cars. If implemented, it would be targeted at hybrid cars, which can run silently on battery power alone when they are at low speeds.
The danger being addressed is to blind pedestrians, who may not hear the oncoming hybrid or electric vehicle as it approaches. A study at the University of California-Riverside has, so far, shown hybrids at low speeds must be 40 percent closer to be heard.
According to the press release from Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), who is cosponsoring the bill with Cliff Stearns (R-FL) said:
Because blind pedestrians cannot locate and evaluate traffic using their vision, they must listen to traffic to discern its speed, direction, and other attributes in order to travel safely and independently. Other people, including pedestrians who are not blind, bicyclists, runners, and small children, also benefit from hearing the sound of vehicle engines. Many new vehicles, particularly those using hybrid or electric engine technology, are silent, rendering them extremely dangerous in situations where vehicles and pedestrians come into proximity with each other. This bill will ensure the safety of pedestrians who, for whatever reason, do not see a vehicle approaching and are placed at risk for injury or even death.The bill is being supported by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
If implemented, the Transportation Dept would conduct a two year study before issuing safety standards. Car makers would then need to comply within two years.
The NFB has been pushing for legislation for years now to force hybrid and electric cars to make more noise. The NFB is located in Maryland, so it's not surprising Maryland has already made moves to require a minimum sound level.
Photo from Jakob Lodwick via flickr.