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Noise of car engines may help prevent car accidents involving pedestrians

Think about the last time you went for a walk or a bike ride in Lake Charles. Did you listen to the sound of traffic to determine whether there was an oncoming vehicle? Pedestrians and bicyclists often use the sound of car engines to help them be aware of their surroundings. Hybrid and electric cars emit little sound at low speeds and as more electric cars hit the roadway the sound of approaching traffic may lessen. With fewer roadway sounds, the streets may become more dangerous for pedestrians.

It seems the noise of car engines may help prevent car accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, pedestrians and bicyclists are twice as likely to be injured by hybrid and electric cars. Of course, that is not to say that traditional cars do not cause pedestrian and bicycle accidents.

Every year around 50,000 pedestrians are injured in car accidents and more than 4,000 pedestrians are killed in car accidents. As new federal gas mileage requirements take effect and as hybrids and electric cars become more popular it may become more difficult to hear traffic at low speeds.

As a result, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has proposed rules that would require electric vehicles and hybrids to make sounds at low speeds. So far no exact sound has been decided upon.

Two groups are lining up on both sides of the issue. Anti-noise pollution groups do not favor purposefully created noise in already noisy urban environments. The National Federation for the Blind is in favor of the proposed sound requirements. Without the sound of traffic, the group's spokesperson says blind people will not be able to determine the speed and direction of vehicles.

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

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