By Keith Laing, The Hill, January 07, 2013
The Department of Transportation is proposing new regulations that would require hybrid and electric cars to make more noise when their engines are running.
The rules are designed to make it easier for pedestrians to hear the quiet automobiles when they are approaching.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the change would make it easier for hybrid and electric car drivers to share the road.
"Safety is our highest priority, and this proposal will help keep everyone using our nation's streets and roadways safe, whether they are motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians, and especially the blind and visually impaired," LaHood said in a statement released by the Transportation Department.
Under the requirement, cars would be required to be heard above typical street noises when they are traveling at speeds less than 18 miles per hour.
The engines of cars traveling faster than that are typically loud enough to be heard, the DOT said.
Congress directed the transportation department to make the change in 2010 when it passed the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act.
National Highway and Traffic Safety Administrator (NHTSA) David Strickland said his agency took into consideration the cost to hybrid and electric automakers of implementing the new rules.
"Our proposal would allow manufacturers the flexibility to design different sounds for different makes and models while still providing an opportunity for pedestrians, bicyclists and the visually impaired to detect and recognize a vehicle and make a decision about whether it is safe to cross the street," Strickland said it statement.
NHTSA said the minimum sound requirements would prevent 2,800 pedestrian and bicycle injuries each year.