Washington, D.C. – U.S. representatives have introduced a bill intended to protect the blind and other pedestrians from injury or death as a result of “silent vehicle” technology used in hybrid or electric vehicles. The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act has now been signed by 32 of the original co-sponsors.
Blind pedestrians must listen to traffic to discern its speed, direction and other attributes in order to travel safely and independently. The bill would also help to protect bicyclists, runners and small children, who also benefit from hearing the sound of vehicle engines.
“The beneficial trend toward more environmentally friendly vehicles has had the unintended effect of placing the blind and other pedestrians in danger,” said Edolphus Towns, who introduced the bill. “As someone who taught travel with a white cane to the blind for many years, I understand that the sound of traffic is critically important in order for them to travel safely and independently. This bill will prevent many injuries and fatalities while still allowing more clean vehicles on our nation’s roads.”
The bill requires the Secretary of Transportation to commence a two-year study, within 90 days of its enactment, to determine the best means to provide pedestrians with information about the location, motion, speed and direction of vehicles. Upon completion of the study, the Secretary will report the findings to Congress and, within 90 days, establish a minimum vehicle safety standard for all new vehicles sold in the United States. Automobile manufacturers will have two years to comply with the new standard.