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Car Culture

Bipartisan Ped Safety Amendment Hitches a Ride on House Auto Bill

11:41 AM PDT on May 27, 2010

The House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday
an auto safety bill aimed at strengthening U.S. DOT
regulators' hands in the aftermath of Toyota's recall debacle. Despite
Republican complaints
that the legislation would impose too many new costs on the car
industry, bipartisan support emerged readily for an amendment focused on
pedestrian safety.

Cliff_Stearns.jpgRep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) (Photo:

Offered by Reps. Ed Towns (D-NY) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL), the
amendment would require makers of hybrid and electric cars, which often
produce little to no sound when traveling at low speeds, to include an
alert noise as a precaution for nearby pedestrians and cyclists.

The silent-cars amendment tracks with conclusions reached
this month
by automakers and advocates for the blind, many of whom
were long concerned about already-impaired pedestrians' ability to guard
against the presence of a semi-silent oncoming vehicle.

A September study [PDF]
conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found
that the crash risk to pedestrians from cars traveling at low speeds was
twice as high for hybrids as for combustion-engine models. The study
also concluded that the likelihood of crashes at road intersections
involving cyclists were "significantly higher" for hybrids than for
conventionally powered cars.

“As the popularity of hybrid and green cars continues
to grow, the audibility of these vehicles at low speeds poses serious
concerns,” Towns said in a statement on his and Stearns' proposal. The
broader auto-safety bill is expected to come to a vote in the full House
later this year.

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