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2/7/2013 - New sound requirements on tap for fuel-efficient vehicles

The NHTSA wants to make green cars more audible.

While hybrid and electric vehicles make driving more convenient and affordable, there have been some unintended consequences resulting from their more widespread use. Owners and passengers say that they are extremely quiet when running, which can serve as a problem for pedestrians crossing the street as they may not be aware of oncoming vehicles

As a result of this, transportation officials have proposed establishing minimum sound standards for these automobiles, where any vehicle traveling 18 miles per hour or less would need to be able to be heard over common noises heard on the street.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently submitted a motion that would require hybrid and electric vehicles to be louder than they are currently when the motor is running. This way, fellow commuters and individuals traveling on the side of the road would be more aware of their surroundings.

Ray LaHood, secretary of the Department of Transportation, indicated that these steps have been taken with the public in mind.

"Safety is our highest priority, and this proposal will help keep everyone using our nation's streets and roadways safe, whether they are motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians, and especially the blind and visually impaired," said LaHood.

David Strickland, NHTSA administrator, added that this proposal would give manufacturers the ability to craft sounds that are individualized, providing motorists and other commuters of the roadway with the ability to identify a make and model simply by hearing it.

Automotive travel experts estimate that when this policy is put into motion, there would likely be 2,800 fewer auto insurance claims caused by crashes, which often lead to serious injuries and fatalities.

The minimum sound standard proposal comes at the direction of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010. Transportation officials say that a considerable amount of research has been done on vehicle sounds since the law was passed, and what has been learned will help make traveling safer.

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