The House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday advanced
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.
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.
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.