2010 Toyota Prius – Click above for a high-res image gallery

According to the newly-introduced Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, which was just introduced by U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), "New vehicles that employ hybrid or electric engine technology can be silent, rendering them extremely dangerous in situations where vehicles and pedestrians come into proximity with each other."

For this reason, the aforementioned bipartisan bill would require that the government "conduct a study on how to protect the blind and others from being injured or killed by vehicles using hybrid, electric, and other silent engine technologies." Companies like Lotus Engineering and Harmon International are already one step ahead of this legislation with products intended to add some extra sound to silent vehicles.

Interestingly, it was just over a year ago that the last study into the dangers of hybrid and electric vehicles was started as directed by the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2008, leaving us to wonder what progress, if any, has been made on the issue over the last year.

Related Gallery2010 Toyota Prius - First Drive

[Source: National Federation of the Blind]


PRESS RELEASE

U.S. Senators John Kerry and Arlen Specter Introduce Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act

National Federation of the Blind Applauds Measure to Protect Lives and Preserve Independence of Blind Americans

WASHINGTON, April 22 -- Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) today introduced a bill, S. 841, intended to protect the blind and other pedestrians from injury or death as a result of silent vehicle technology. The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 requires the Secretary of Transportation to conduct a study on how to protect the blind and others from being injured or killed by vehicles using hybrid, electric, and other silent engine technologies.

Because blind pedestrians cannot locate and evaluate traffic using their vision, they must listen to traffic to discern its speed, direction, and other attributes in order to travel safely and independently. Other people, including pedestrians who are not blind, bicyclists, runners, and small children, also benefit from hearing the sound of vehicle engines. New vehicles that employ hybrid or electric engine technology can be silent, rendering them extremely dangerous in situations where vehicles and pedestrians come into proximity with each other.

"The National Federation of the Blind appreciates the wise and decisive action taken today by Senators Kerry and Specter to preserve the right to safe and independent travel for the blind," said Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "The blind, like all pedestrians, must be able to travel to work, to school, to church, and to other places in our communities without being injured or killed. This bill will benefit all pedestrians for generations to come as new vehicle technologies become more prevalent. The blind of America will do everything in our power to ensure its swift passage."

"I'm a major proponent of hybrid vehicles -- I own one, I drive one, and I've seen firsthand their environmental and economic benefits," said Senator Kerry. "The market is demanding new technologies in the auto industry, and Americans are demanding we finally kick our foreign oil addiction. As we continue to promote our energy independence, however, we must do more to ensure the safety of those who use senses other than sight to navigate the roads. I look forward to working with Secretary LaHood to ensure that hybrid vehicles are safe for everyone."

"Blind people have the same right to safe travel as all other pedestrians," said Senator Specter. "I look forward to working with my colleagues on this important legislation to ensure that the blind and other pedestrians can continue to travel safely and independently."

About the National Federation of the Blind

With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The NFB improves blind people's lives through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and self-confidence. It is the leading force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation's blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind.