Legislation to Protect Pedestrians who are Blind
On Thursday, December 16 the U.S. House of Representatives passed The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act.
The legislation addresses safety risks posed by silent hybrid and electric vehicles to pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired.
Pedestrians who are blind use their hearing to determine traffic speed, direction, and other attributes in order to travel safely and independently. Bicyclists, runners, and small children also benefit from hearing the sound of vehicle engines.
Perkins has been heavily involved in advocating for this regulatory legislation. In late 2009, U.S. Department of Transportation officialas came to Perkins' campus to measure how quickly and accurately people with visual impairments can identify vehicle sounds. The research was conducted using a recording studio at Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library.
Read more about the legislation in the PRNewswire story below.
Critical Pedestrian Safety Legislation Moves to White House for President's Signature
WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2010 - Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 841, The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, legislation that will provide blind, visually impaired, and other pedestrians greater security when traveling in close proximity to hybrid or electric vehicles.
"The passage of this legislation is momentous and marks over two years of vigorous advocacy by ACB membership that has resulted in consensus by the blind community, auto industry, and Congress," stated Mitch Pomerantz, President of the American Council of the Blind.
"The silent nature of hybrid and electric vehicles, coupled with their growing popularity, presents a dilemma. How do we protect individuals dependent on sound for their safety, such as unsuspecting pedestrians and the blind?" said Representative Edolphus Towns, the sponsor of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, who spent many years teaching travel with a white cane to the blind. "The solution lies in the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act. I am proud to have supported this important piece of legislation."
"The visually impaired rely on audio cues to detect nearby traffic and these quiet vehicles pose a special risk to them and to other pedestrians," stated Rep. Cliff Stearns, who joined in offering the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act. "This measure enjoys the support of all of the interested parties and it is budget neutral, and I look forward to the President quickly signing this bill."
The legislation will require the U.S. Department of Transportation to begin writing standards that would set requirements for an alert sound that allows blind and other pedestrians to reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle. It also requires that those rules be finalized within three years.
ACB wishes to express its sincere appreciation to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) along with Reps. Ed Towns (D-N.Y.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) for their staunch leadership over the past two years regarding this very important safety issue. The National Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Association of International Automobile Manufacturers have also worked collaboratively with the blind community to insure that the legislation could effectively resolve the current and growing unintended safety problems that hybrid and electric vehicles present to the public when traveling at low speeds.