With the increasing numbers of quiet-running hybrid or electric vehicles on U.S. roads today, concerns are growing for the safety of pedestrians, and specifically the blind, who often rely on the sound of vehicles to get around safely and independently. As such, legislation that would set a minimum sound level for vehicles is slated to be heard by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday. If passed, the law would require all cars sold in the U.S. by as early as 2010 to emit a minimum decibel level, one way or another, although no numbers have yet been set.

The bill would first require the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to perform a study, with input from organizations representing the blind and other pedestrians, to determine if a minimum sound level is required, and if so, what it should be. Under the proposal, automakers would have two years to make their vehicles, hybrid or otherwise, meet the criteria.

Last November, SAE International set up a task force to study the effects of quiet vehicles, with findings expected by the end of 2008.

The idea is not new, as Fisker had a speaker system planned for its Karma hybrid, though that system is also meant to stimulate engine sounds for their aural entertainment for the driver.