Obama passes law to require carmakers to comply with minimum sound levels

Article by Christian A., on January 6, 2011

A bill that will require automakers to make sure that their approaching quiet cars can be heard by pedestrians (especially the blind) has been passed into law by President Barack Obama last Tuesday. Last month, Congress made a vote that resulted to federal safety regulators being required to set minimum sound levels from electric and gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles.

This is actually the first piece of auto safety legislation to become law since Obama became president in 2009. There are other safety bills that were prompted by the massive recalls of Toyota Motor Corp.'s vehicles over sudden acceleration but they have been stalled.

According to Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, the bill will "preserve the right to safe and independent travel for the blind."

Last month, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate and a hybrid owner, said that this law means that they can continue to promote its energy independence and technological innovation while at the same time, it protects “those who use senses other than sight to navigate the roads."

Rep. Ed Towns, D-N.Y., who sponsored the bill in the House, said that it is unintentional but the trend for more environmentally friendly, quiet vehicles has compromised the safety and independence of the blind and other pedestrians.

Those who supported the measure include the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

With the signing in of this law, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is required to determine performance requirements for an alert sound that enables the blind and other pedestrians to “reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle” that is approaching at low speeds. [via Detroit News]

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