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Hybrids don’t make much noise. They whisper — if that — when the combustion engines shut off as they stop at intersections. For those who take off slowly after a stop, the hushed electric motor barely hums. That’s all bad for blind people who rely on noise from car engines to decide when it’s safe to cross streets.
Even worse: There’s no clear solution.
“The problem is we don’t really have a good answer for how to deal with it,” said Bill Jacobson, . . .
So following their instructions, I wrote this letter to the editor:
Robert Smith's story "Quiet cars pose threat to the blind" (Aug. 25) ignores the facts and data about HR 5734, the "Bell the Hybrid Act." The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data shows 4,700 pedestrians die each year of which 5 were blind. The Prius hybrid electric has the same accident rate as ordinary cars and no Prius has killed a blind. Yet HR 5734, cosponsored by Rep. Marion Berry and John Boozman, would add noisemakers to these already safe cars.
In 2006, 25 kids, mostly pre-schoolers, died in back-over accidents under engine running exhaust pipes. The drivers, moms and neighbors, didn't stop until the crushed body showed up in front of the vehicle. The drivers controlling the cars didn't know their kids were there and that is the problem, letting the driver know.
Most cars have a keyfob with a "panic" button connected to the horn and lights. We need a special keyfob for the shoes of pre-school kids that will "bleep" the horn and flash the lights as a car approaches dangerously close. Alerting the driver as well as the pedestrian and bystanders can save the 25 kids and even the 5 blind, which today’s engine noise does not. HR 5734 would “Bell the Hybrid” and not improve safety.
The NHTSA held a “Quiet Cars” hearing, June 23, and the backup data is at www.regulations.gov by searching for NHTSA-2008-0108-0020. Robert Smith got it fatally wrong.