New Legislation Adds Alert Noise To Hybrids For Safety

Imagine for a minute that you live in a city, walk to work--crossing many intersections--and are blind. Dangerous, for sure, but you've learned to listen for car noises before stepping into the crosswalk. But how do you deal with those superquiet hybrids that are the rage in these days of $3.50-a-gallon gas? Enter Washington: Reps. Edolphus Towns and Cliff Stearns, to be exact. With the backing of the National Federation of the Blind, the duo tomorrow plans to propose legislation that will essentially lead to having carmakers install a noisemaker on hybrids to help the blind hear oncoming cars. While no specific noise or noisemaker will be required, the legislation will instead "assess the most effective alert sound," said Dana Grayson of Representative Towns's staff. But she said the solution isn't a loud noise. "We want to look at a minimum of sound," she said, noting that the lawmakers are conscious of noise pollution. It looks like it has a good chance: Carmakers tell us that while they like how quiet their cars are, it's unlikely that they will mount any opposition.

By Paul Bedard