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House Bill Seeks to Address Hybrid Hazard for Blind

April 10, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Representatives Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) introduced a bill Wednesday that would require the Transportation Department to establish safety standards for hybrids and other cars in order to protect blind pedestrians.

The National Federation of the Blind has been pushing for legislation that addresses the safety risks that hybrids pose because blind pedestrians can't hear them coming when they're traveling at slow speeds and operating on electricity. The risk seems to be highest when hybrid cars are backing out in a parking lot or turning right at a stop light after coming to a full stop.

The bill would require the Transportation Department to conduct a two-year study before setting the standards. Automakers would then have two years to comply with any resulting requirements to add audible sounds to the vehicles.

"As a blind traveler, in order for me to know how to navigate the streets, I need to know which way the cars are going -- if they are stopping, if they are going, if they are turning -- so I know if I can cross the street," Devon Jones, a student at the Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, told Scripps Howard Foundation Wire-InfoZine.

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