As hybrid and electric cars become more prevalent, there will be more cars on the road with electric drivetrains that make no sound at certain times, like when coming to a stop at a light or while sitting idle. This can be very dangerous for the blind, who rely on engine noise to judge the distance, speed and whereabouts of cars as they navigate roads and crosswalks.
The co-authors of the bill point out that silent cars like hybrids — and presumably future fully electric-powered cars — can also be a danger to people with perfectly good eyesight, such as bicyclists and small children.
It’s also fair to point out that safety advocates have been talking about this issue for a while. The National Federation for the Blind applauded the bill, known as the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will be tasked with funding and conducting the study.