FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
U.S. Representatives Edolphus Towns and Cliff Stearns Introduce Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act
National Federation of the Blind Applauds Measure to Protect Lives and Preserve Independence of Blind Americans
Washington, DC (January 28, 2009): Representatives Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL) today introduced H.R. 734, a bill intended to protect the blind and other pedestrians from injury or death as a result of silent vehicle technology. The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 requires the Secretary of Transportation to conduct a study on how to protect the blind and others from being injured or killed by vehicles using hybrid, electric, and other silent engine technologies. Thirty-two original co-sponsors have already signed on to the bill.
Because blind pedestrians cannot locate and evaluate traffic using their vision, they must listen to traffic to discern its speed, direction, and other attributes in order to travel safely and independently. Other people, including pedestrians who are not blind, bicyclists, runners, and small children, also benefit from hearing the sound of vehicle engines. New vehicles that employ hybrid or electric engine technology can be silent, rendering them extremely dangerous in situations where vehicles and pedestrians come into proximity with each other.
“The National Federation of the Blind appreciates the wise and decisive action taken today by Congressmen Towns and Stearns to preserve the right to safe and independent travel for the blind,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “The blind, like all pedestrians, must be able to travel to work, to school, to church, and to other places in our communities without being injured or killed. This bill will benefit all pedestrians for generations to come as new vehicle technologies become more prevalent. The blind of America will do everything in our power to ensure its swift passage.”
“The beneficial trend toward more environmentally friendly vehicles has had the unintended effect of placing the blind and other pedestrians in danger,” said Representative Towns. “As someone who taught travel with a white cane to the blind for many years, I understand that the sound of traffic is critically important in order for them to travel safely and independently. This bill will prevent many injuries and fatalities while still allowing more clean vehicles on our nation’s roads.”
“I understand the safety concerns of blind pedestrians with these quiet automobiles; I have heard the same concerns from senior citizens in my district, and I appreciate the threat to children, bicyclists, and runners,” said Representative Stearns. “I deeply appreciate the support of all parties in supporting this important safety legislation.”
The bill requires the Secretary of Transportation, within ninety days of its enactment, to commence a two-year study to determine the best means to provide the blind and other pedestrians with information about the location, motion, speed, and direction of vehicles. Upon completion of the study, the Secretary will report the findings of the study to Congress and, within ninety days, establish a minimum vehicle safety standard for all new vehicles sold in the United States. Automobile manufacturers will have two years to comply with the vehicle safety standard.