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To require gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles and other vehicles using silent power sources to emit a minimum level of sound which can alert blind people and other pedestrians to their presence.
Blind people listen to the sounds of automobile engines to determine the direction, speed, and pattern of traffic. Sounds from traffic tell blind pedestrians how many vehicles are near them and how fast they are moving; whether the vehicles are accelerating or decelerating; and whether the vehicles are traveling toward, away from, or parallel to them. This information enables blind people to determine when it is safe to proceed into an intersection or across a driveway or parking lot.
Over the past few years, gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles have come onto the market. They alternate between running on a gasoline engine and on battery power, and new all-electric models are planned. These vehicles are designed to produce lower emissions to help protect the environment from harmful pollutants, but the vehicles do not need to be silent to achieve the intended positive environmental effects.
The silence of gasoline-electric hybrid cars poses an immediate and growing threat to the safety of blind and other pedestrians and jeopardizes the ability of blind people to travel independently. To address this threat, these vehicles must emit a sound which will allow pedestrians who are blind to continue to travel in safety, and this sound will also protect cyclists, runners, other pedestrians, and small children, all of whom rely on the sounds of traffic to varying degrees.
Automobile manufacturers view the silence of their vehicles as a marketing advantage, and even they concede that pedestrians cannot hear these vehicles. We believe it is preferable that the problem be addressed before the inevitable tragedies involving blind people, cyclists, and children occur. Silent operation should be seen as a design flaw similar to the lack of seat belts or air bags.
The federal government should establish regulations for a minimum sound to be emitted by all new automobiles which should include:
- In all phases of operation, including times when the vehicle is at a full stop, vehicles should be required to emit an omni-directional sound similar to that of a modern internal combustion engine.
- The sound should vary in a way that is consistent with the sound of vehicles with combustion engines to indicate whether the vehicle is idling, maintaining a constant speed, accelerating, or decelerating.
- The Regulation need not prescribe the method to be used by vehicle manufacturers to achieve the required minimum sound level. This approach will encourage manufacturers to use innovative and cost-effective techniques to achieve the minimum sound standard.
Please support blind Canadians by joining us in developing Regulations which require a minimum sound standard for all new automobiles sold in Canada. This will protect the safety of blind Canadians and all other pedestrians.