The sound of more government - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

The sound of more government

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Posted: Friday, February 22, 2008 9:52 pm | Updated: 11:32 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

You know the rush to impose government mandates on everything has gotten ridiculously out of control when one state lawmaker wants to force quiet automobiles to make more noise, even though no one has a clue how to do so without adding to environmental destruction.

Rep. Ed Abeleser, D-Tempe, is sponsoring House Bill 2780, which would require the state to set minimum noise standards for all auto engines — that’s a minimum level of sound, as in a car or truck must be heard from a certain distance or it would be in violation of the law.

Abeleser is acting at the behest of the National Foundation of the Blind, which has become alarmed at the success of hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius in reducing the excessive sounds of traditional combustion engines. The foundation says many blind people have to come rely on auto engine noises to alert them when it’s not safe to cross a street intersection. Unable to hear a hybrid vehicle at low speeds, a blind person might unwittingly walk into the path of a motorist.

During a hearing Wednesday before the House Environmental Committee, Abeleser said auto makers are aware of the foundation’s concerns but are stumped about what steps they could take without abandoning the quiet battery technology that makes hybrids cars different from other autos.

Abeleser argued Arizona should adopt a mandate to propel the auto makers to be “more quick and efficient” about adding some noise to hybrids.

Other lawmakers were flabbergasted. Rep. Bob Robson, R-Chandler, pointed out the state and federal governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on freeway sound walls and rubberized asphalt to reduce auto noise that disrupts the quality of life in urban areas. Rep. Sam Crump, R-Anthem, wanted to know if lawmakers would be expected to also regulate other forms of quieter transportation such as bicycles.

“Where will it end? Are we going to have to put a string of tin cans behind things?” asked Rep. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale.

Abeleser’s motives might be in the right place, but the real answer here is for auto makers and advocates for the blind to sit down and brainstorm some ideas. The worst possible approach would be a government mandate that takes away one of the best things about owning a hybrid.

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