Monday, July 7

Hybrids Pose Silent Threat to the Blind

Greetings. Here's an article from the Associated Press on the dangers of hybrid cars to the blind. Please excuse any formatting errors and enjoy.

Hybrid vehicles pose silent threat to the blind
By Associated Press | June 24, 2008

WASHINGTON - Advocates for the blind want the government to set minimum
sound standards for new cars and trucks, pointing to potential safety
hazards for blind pedestrians who can't hear silent gas-electric hybrid

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration held a daylong hearing
yesterday to discuss the issue, which has been raised by organizations
represent about 1.1 million legally blind Americans. "For us, these cars
invisible," said Deborah Kent Stein of the National Federation of the

Stein and representatives of other organizations for the blind said hybrid
vehicles are difficult for blind pedestrians to detect, since they use
traffic sounds to determine when it's safe to cross the street. They asked
the government to conduct more research into the issue and require cars to
emit minimum decibel levels.

Industry officials said they hoped to begin preliminary testing later this
year to quantify typical noise emissions from vehicles. But they said the
issue is complicated because so many things contribute to traffic sounds:
engines, tires hitting the road, wind resistance, and background noise.

"There are a lot of things that we simply don't know at this point," said
Chris Tinto, a Toyota Motor Corp. vice president who is leading an
panel reviewing the issue.

During the meeting, researchers played audio tapes comparing the sounds of
hybrids with vehicles that have conventional engines. In one experiment,
blindfolded listeners couldn't hear a 2006 Toyota Prius until it was about
11 feet away, compared with a 2004 Honda Accord, which the listeners
detected from a distance of about 36 feet.

Some lawmakers are taking notice. US Representatives Ed Towns, a Democrat
from New York, and Cliff Stearns, a Republican from Florida, introduced
legislation in April that would require a two-year study of the issue by

Hybrid vehicles operate on battery-powered electric motors at low speeds
when idling, reducing the amount of sound from the vehicle compared with
conventional cars and trucks.

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