Hybrid SilenceIt happens to be very well known that electric vehicles are silent when they are operated at a very low speed. And for the most part this is a fancy feature, but for some, this can be extremely dangerous. Those that are hearing impaired run the risk of not hearing the vehicles when performing simple tasks, such as crossing the street.

The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act was passed by Congress in 2010. With this law enacted, automakers will be required to update engines so that they can be heard by the blind. These updates are required to be completed within 18 months. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has pushed the deadline back, from January 2014 to the latest reschedule, March of 2016, stating that they needed further coordination.

According to NHTSA, developing engine noise for the disabled will help to reduce the number of pedestrian and cyclist accidents by 2,800 per year. Pedestrians are everywhere, pervasive really. The number of adults with visual impairments is staggering. 10% of adults, or 20 million Americans have reported using some form of eye support, including glasses, contacts, according to the CDC. The CDC has also estimated that more than 6 million Americans over age 40 will experience low blindness by the year 2030. These numbers are certainly staggering and necessitate the need for some noise.

Not every auto manufacturer is on board with the required changes, and some are claiming that the updates will be far too complicated and costly. It is true that the automobile industry will have a hefty price to pay in the first year alone, at $23 million to start the project. Even though the manufacturer Nissan has voluntarily updated their vehicle systems, others are taking much more time to comply.

These fears have been around for many years and it was a blind individual that gave Deborah Kent Stein, director for National Federation for the Blind, the idea for noisier vehicles back in 2003. “I couldn’t hear any sound,” states Kent. “It was really an aha moment.” A study done in 2011 showed that pedestrians were 35% more likely to be involved in a hybrid vehicle accident as opposed to a combustion engine vehicle. Taking the time to put a little noise back into the engine will help ensure we have safer streets, and might just sound like an old fashioned car show.

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