Blind People Say Quiet Hybrid Cars Pose Safety Risk

Gas-electric hybrid vehicles, the status symbol for the environmentally conscientious, are coming under attack from a constituency that doesn't drive: the blind. Because hybrids make virtually no noise at slower speeds when they run solely on electric power, blind people say they pose a hazard to those who rely on their ears to determine whether it's safe to cross the street or walk through a parking lot. "I'm used to being able to get sound cues from my environment and negotiate accordingly. I hadn't imagined there was anything I really wouldn't be able to hear," said Deborah Kent Stein, chairwoman of the National Federation of the Blind's Committee on Automotive and Pedestrian Safety. "We did a test, and I discovered, to my great dismay, that I couldn't hear it."

The tests - admittedly unscientific - involved people standing in parking lots or on sidewalks who were asked to signal when they heard several different hybrid models drive by. "People were making comments like, 'When are they going to start the test?' And it would turn out that the vehicle had already done two or three laps around the parking lot," Stein said. Officials with two separate arms of the U.S. Department of Transportation - the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration - said they are aware of the problem but have not studied it.

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32 Comments

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This is just a ploy by the big fat oil companies to frighten the public about those big bad hybrid vehicles and keep us hooked on consuming mass quantities of petrol till the planet goes up in flames.

They probably really won't like the 10 or so hybrid metro busses that Madison, WI just put into commission then... :P

-Spenser

Why don't the cars just emit some sort of non-intrusive sound? A speaker with the noise that the Jetsons' car made would make everyone smile!

This seems to highlight something that is prevalent in US-based movies: USians can't drive safely. They think they are kings of the road and anything on it is fair game; just set it in cruise control and dick about with your iPod. I recall clips where a truck blithely ploughs into a stopped car even though there was at least 200yds of clear straight road before it. How many YouTube "funnies" are there where someone crosses an intersection (in flat country with no blocking buildings) from the left and some dumbass crashes into them? How about when the brakes seem to be the last thing anyone thinks of using to stop a car; they'd rather crash into a tree / building / something flammable rather than wear down a brake pad.

You hit a pedestrian in UK and it is normally your fault, same as when you rear-end someone. If you don't have sufficient hazard awareness to notice a blind person (hint: white cane) by the side of the road / in a car park you shouldn't be allowed to drive a car. There's also the rule that any slower vehicle (which includes pedestrians, bicycles, tractors, tracked vehicles, disabled carriages, sheep and horses) has right of way over a faster one, which is why they aren't allowed on motorways where the velocities are so much higher.

True, there are situations where you can't help it, but the blind don't tend to lurk behind parked vehicles and bound out without warning, which is what kids do, or idiots in New York with their iPods up too high. If you hit a kid, regardless of how it occurred, you're at fault, yet not if you hit a disabled person. Nice double standard.

Topic title change request: "Blind People Say Dumbasses Who Drive Quiet Hybrid Cars Pose Safety Risk"

People without common sense pose a safety risk

Dumb test, drive an automatic gasoline car at 5mph and test if they hear anything. A person who is not blind will be able to brake within no time at 5mph. In conclusion, blue collar chairwoman pose a safety risk.

Hybrid cars pose many problems to the world, a decrease in oil demand will cause third world suffering, environmental activist will have to find a new hobby, and hybrids driven into lakes will emit an electroshock paralyzing all occupants and increase the rate of drownings. Terrorists can also use the massive batteries compartments to remove a few cells to hide a small nuclear device from detection and have a sufficient power source to ignite the detonator core. Hybrid cars will also increase the insurance rate because they have a higher retail value and are more likely to be vandalized because of their pro-Hillary 2008 election bumper stickers and related bologna and key scrapes body damages.

Heh! Just wait when Hydrogen fuel cell and total electric vehicles are standard. We'll have to install smokey 2 stroke weed eater engines on them so they can be heard.

You know what's dangerous?.... Blind people wandering out into the street....
In the UK all the pedestrian crossings have a bumpy texture on the floor so that blind people know when they are at one... they also beep loudly when it's safe to walk. What the hell more can be done??? If the blind want to wander across country lanes which have no crossings then they have to run the odds and work out if the risk out weights the need to get to the other side. Life's a bitch.. it's an electric car now.. but what the hell do they do about push bikes?? They don't make any sound.

Don't blind people have super hearing anyway? ... the other senses compensate for the missing one... movies have informed me of this.

Hello. My name is professor Steven Hawking.

That last line was for Blind people who might read this post via text2speech They are sure to get a kick out of it

Hello. My name is professor Steven Hawking.

That last line was for Blind people who might read this post via text2speech They are sure to get a kick out of it ;)

lol

jthomas5150 said,
Would smokin' weed help any?

It might just slow them blind ****ers down enough so you have some time to avoid them.

I think the key here is that the vehicles are near-silent at SLOW speeds, so the safety risk is stuck on the driver.
Sure, it'll be mildly annoying when someone crosses the road right in front of you, but it's a small price to pay for the convenience of Hybrids.

Berserk87 said,
i wouldnt quite call a broken windshield and blood on my hood a "mild annoyance"

Trip to the car wash + Auto glass come to you in a little van.. to your work if you want.

Just remember ... "I hit a deer, fuc*ker just ran out"....never fails. ;)

..........

Well that sounds very creepy. I've gone too far.

To clarify, I don't hit people in my car... even if they are blind.

Thank you for your time.

joeydoo said,

Trip to the car wash + Auto glass come to you in a little van.. to your work if you want.

Just remember ... "I hit a deer, fuc*ker just ran out"....never fails. ;)

..........

Well that sounds very creepy. I've gone too far.

To clarify, I don't hit people in my car... even if they are blind.

Thank you for your time.

This made my day.

How about the car emitting a signal via WiFi to any 'receivers' nearby, such as the blind persons stick to make it vibrate or similar..?

Smart but wifi isn't everywhere yet but then if they go home and wifi is there, they might use it for other uses :P

Simple solution, update crosswalk signals to emit a tone. Another crazy idea, if you're blind don't cross highways by yourself.

TRC said,
Simple solution, update crosswalk signals to emit a tone. Another crazy idea, if you're blind don't cross highways by yourself.

all our crosswalks tick where i live at... you can even hear them in your car if you next to one

... or walk through a parking lot
The crosswalk idea helps with crosswalks (though, they could just walk when others walk in a group in cases where intersections don't have audible cues), but it doesn't help with other situations, like at the local grocery store or such.

(markjensen said @ #1.2)
but it doesn't help with other situations, like at the local grocery store or such.

You mean where the pedestrian had the right of way anyway?