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Promoting safety through sound

For New Yorkers acclimated to the sounds of the urban environment, the plaintive cries of taxi horns and brake squeals are often relegated to the background, categorized as white noise. Visitors of New York City have a hard time tuning out this noise pollution and claim the auditory overload causes headaches and inability to maintain focus. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), however, the revving of an engine and the hum of the motor are sounds that warn pedestrians of an automobile's presence. For those with impaired vision, these audio cues may provide the only hints that a car is in the vicinity. It is for this reason that the agency has established a new safety standard for electronic vehicles and hybrids.

The standard requires hybrid and electronic vehicles that weigh less than 10,000 pounds to emit sounds when they are moving less than 19 mph. As the automobiles exceed this speed, they are no longer silent. Known as the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141, this set of guidelines will influence newly manufactured cars. By 2019, vehicle manufacturers must be fully compliant with the rule. No information has been released regarding retrofitting hybrids or electric vehicles currently on the road.

While New York's urban centers are often characterized by their omnipresent high decibel levels, government officials are seeking to reduce the cities' carbon footprint by establishing targets for incorporating EV and hybrids into taxi and bus fleets. Building on the momentum created by former Mayor Bloomberg, New York has developed programs for putting more hybrids and electric vehicles on the road. The Transportation and Climate Initiative, Clean Fleets NY and Clean Cities are three programs that encourage the use of vehicles that don't rely on internal combustion. The EV and hybrids leased for these programs will be subject to the new standards in 2019.

The takeaway from the new guidelines is that New Yorkers will not have to sacrifice pedestrian safety to promote a clean environment.

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