- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

So long as lawmakers insist on enacting new regulations to address the problems caused by old regulations, government growth will never end. This is the case with the innocuously named Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, which was placed on President Obama’s desk before New Year’s. The goal of this bill - which passed the Senate unanimously and had only 30 dissenting votes in the House - is to make hybrid and electric automobiles noisier.

Because they operate either full-time or part-time on electric motors, these allegedly “green” transportation appliances are eerily silent. So silent, in fact, that one can almost hear a distinct cash register ring at start up from all of the government incentives lavished upon them. President Obama’s “stimulus” bill handed hybrid manufacturers $2.4 billion in subsidies. The mostly wealthy buyers of fully electric vehicles can take for themselves $7,500 out of the pockets of less-enlightened taxpayers. The benefits don’t end there. Many state governments allow drivers in the eco-piety mobiles the special privilege of using high-occupancy vehicle lanes without any passengers. Even local governments have gotten into the act by posting special “hybrid only” parking spaces, equating the owners of these special vehicles with the disabled.

Yet the handicapped are themselves put at risk by the increasing use of this favored mode of transport. According to a 2009 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, hybrid and electric vehicles were “two times more likely to be involved in a pedestrian crash” than regular cars when slowing or stopping, backing up or entering or leaving a parking space. The blind in particular find themselves at risk because they cannot hear 3,000-pound hybrids heading toward them.

None of this should have come as a surprise to anyone, but instead of underwriting the purchase price of these expensive and dangerous contraptions, Sen. John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, introduced the bill requiring all new hybrids and electrics to make an “alert sound” like the loud beep made by heavy trucks when backing up so that their presence will be known to those nearby on foot or on a bicycle. An irritating buzzer won’t help slumping sales of so-called green cars. Hybrid purchases already were down 8.1 percent in 2010 compared to the previous year, according to Edmunds.com, and Nissan sold fewer than 10 of its Leaf all-electric cars in the last two weeks of last year.

These pricey novelties are not intended for the working man anyway. Limousine liberals in Hollywood depend on cars like the Toyota Prius and Tesla Roadster to help greenwash their image. After all, nobody will notice their lavish carbon-dioxide-spewing mansions and private jets when they roll into a premier behind the wheel of a vehicle that parades their supposedly superior environmental consciousness. There’s no reason that the rest of the public should bear the financial burden for helping them do so. Absent the government-granted privileges and handouts, sales of hybrids and electric vehicles would disappear - so too would the hazard to bicyclists and the blind.

President Obama and the lame-duck Congress, however, prefer a “solution” that perpetuates government meddling in the free market. The new Congress should put a stop to the endless cycle of regulation and re-regulation by canceling the billions in subsidies for smugmobiles.

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