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New 'Quiet Car' safety rules could protect pedestrians

Pedestrians and bikers are some of the most vulnerable people on the road, and a new safety requirement from the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may help protect pedestrians from danger.

The American Council of the Blind applauded the NHTSA on the new regulation, saying it can make the streets safer for not only the blind and visually impaired, but for all pedestrians who have to share the road with vehicles.

Regulation will 'make the streets safer' for pedestrians

The NHTSA announced on Monday, Nov. 14 a new federal safety standard for sound for all future hybrid and electric vehicles. Because these vehicles are known for their near-silent operation, the new requirement mandates them make an audible noise while traveling at low speeds, helping to protect pedestrians including the visually impaired.

The NHTSA stated that as many as 2,400 pedestrians will be saved from injury every year due to the new safety measure, once all hybrid and electric vehicles are equipped. The sound will be required moving forward or backward at speeds up to 18.6 mph on all hybrid and electric four-wheeled vehicles weighing 10,000 lbs. or less.

Missing in the announcement by the NHTSA is what the sound will be. Could it be a beep, bell, low rumble or the sound The Jetsons' car made in the '60s cartoon? We have yet to find out.

Why the wait?

A couple of questions that arise with the new safety requirement are why did it take so long to address the problem and why will it take over a year to implement the change? The first deadline for car makers is September 18, 2018 - the goal is to have half of all newly-manufactured hybrid and electric cars equipped with the new sound. Then all manufacturers have until September 1, 2019 to have fully complied with the requirements will all of their vehicles.

Although it's good news for visually-impaired people on the street, there will still be existing vehicles without the sound, and it will take nearly two years for the change to take place with all new cars. It sounds like the NHTSA's aim toward the future is helpful, but in the present and short-term future, hybrid and electric vehicles and pedestrians can still be a dangerous combination.

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