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Hybrid, Electric Vehicles Must Emit Noises; Can No Longer Run Silently

President Barack Obama has signed into law a requirement that hybrids and electric vehicles emit noises the blind and pedestrians can hear to avoid being struck by the vehicles that sometimes run silently.

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The legislation, which was introduced by former presidential candidate U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), is called the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. It directs the Secretary of Transportation to study and report to Congress on the minimum level of sound that is necessary to be emitted from a motor vehicle, or some other method, to alert blind and other pedestrians of the presence of operating motor vehicles while traveling, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The National Federation for the Blind, which championed the bill, is praising its passage. “The blind, like all pedestrians, must be able to travel to work, to school, to church, and to other places in our communities, and we must be able to hear vehicles in order to do so. This law, which is the result of collaboration among blind Americans, automobile manufacturers, and legislators, will benefit all pedestrians for generations to come as new vehicle technologies become more prevalent. We look forward to working with the Department of Transportation throughout the regulatory process,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind.

According to the Detroit News, it's the first piece of auto safety legislation to become law since Obama took office in 2009. Several other safety bills proposed in the wake of Toyota Motor Corp.'s recalls over sudden acceleration have been stalled. The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers backed the measure, as did the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Currently, Nissan Motor Co. has outfitted its Leaf electric car to automatically alert pedestrians when the car is operating at low speeds. General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Volt, powered by a battery and a small internal combustion engine, has a chirping sound the driver can activate.

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