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Noise of car engines may help prevent car accidents involving pedestrians

The noise from traditional car engines may prevent car accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists. Think about the last time you went for a walk or a bike ride in Albany. Did you rely on the sound of a car engine to help determine whether there was oncoming traffic? Many of us would probably answer "yes" to that question but as more hybrid and electric cars come online the sound of the open road may grow quieter and more dangerous.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, pedestrians and bicyclists are twice as likely to get injured by a hybrid or electric car. Clearly, traditional cars still account for the majority of car accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists because more traditional cars occupy the roadways. Every year around 50,000 pedestrians are injured in car accidents and in 2009 more than 4,000 pedestrians were killed by cars.

As the technology becomes more commonplace and new federal mileage requirements take effect more hybrid and electric cars will be on the street. The safety problem with hybrid and electric cars is that the cars emit little sound at low speeds. As a result, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has proposed rules that will require electric and hybrid cars to emit noise at low speeds. So far the type of required noise has not been determined.

As the issue comes to a head two groups are representing both sides. Anti-noise pollution groups say there is no need to make noisy streets and highways louder. One anti-noise pollution advocate said electric vehicles make the same noise as traditional vehicles when driving forward and are only quieter when backing up. A representative for the National Federation for the Blind said blind people use the sound of traffic to navigate and "cannot travel safely and independently without hearing traffic sounds."

Source: money.msn.com, "Hybrids: Quiet threat to pedestrians," Mark Vallet, Oct. 11, 2011

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