Hybrid vehicles’ silence seen as posing peril


Hybrid vehicles’ silence seen as posing peril

As the car crept up to them, the students didn’t react. It wasn’t until it was about to run them over that they even knew it was there. And that was only because it hit their white canes.

The hybrid car’s electric motor had kicked in. And the students, all of whom are blind, couldn’t hear it.

“It came up, and it was right there. We had no idea it was even coming,” said Chad Wilburn, one of students, who took part in a demonstration of the new hazard posed by the quiet hybrid vehicles earlier this year in Salt Lake City by the Utah Center for the Blind.

. . . . .

But they’re not the only ones worried about the silence. Emergency workers are raising the alarm, too, saying it can be hard to tell whether a hybrid’s engine is still running at the scene of an accident.

“If it’s in gear, it can lurch forward and injure someone,” said James Surrell, a physician at Marquette General Hospital in Michigan, who teaches hybrid safety classes for rescue workers and emergency medical technicians.
In addition to a standard 12-volt battery under the hood, a typical hybrid engine uses another battery under the back seat that packs as many as 600 volts — more than enough to cause instantaneous death.

That’s obvious. If carmakers don’t install a simple noise making device then the owner should. I’m not going to be responsible for a death or injury because I know they can’t hear my car.


Lotus created a system “Safe and Sound”, which lends a little “noise” to the hybrid vehicle. I imagine it should be available for purchase as an aftermarket item soon.

I can just see it…pair of big honkin’ speakers on the roof…sonic generator belting out the sound of a Harley, keyed to vehicle speed…I may just have something here.


I have an '06 Civic Hybrid that I love, but it does get a little annoying that pedestrians have no idea I’m behind them. I’d go for one of those external speaker systems, but only as long as I can hack it to make my car sound like an X-Wing from Star Wars :smiley:

It should be like the in all those sci-fi movies a gentle hum like a quiet jet turbine or something. I think in addition to carbon pollution noise pollution should be kept at a minimum and the driver of said vehicles (all electric is coming soon) should be more vigilant behind the wheel.

Just my two cents though,


Um, Civic hybrids can’t drive with the engine off like the Prius and Escape do. Your Civic shouldn’t be any quieter than a standard Civic at idling speeds - which IS fairly quiet, but has nothing to do with it being a hybrid.

Well, not having driven a non-hybrid Civic, I don’t know how loud they are. I know my engine is still on, but perhaps it’s a bit quieter because of the battery assistance on acceleration? Maybe I just run across some particularly oblivious pedestrians :slight_smile:

Depending on driver’s vigilance (or pedestrian’s) is a lost cause. As to “noise pollution” we’re not talking about adding a new source but what we are all accustomed to and depend on.

Maybe manufacturers will offer different noises for their silent cars, like ringtones; jet engine, NASCAR, horse’s hooves . . .

The obvious solution for these types of toy cars is to put playing cards in the spokes of the wheels…problem solved!!!:D:D

I like it. That would be awesome. Clippy clop in parking lots, and full on gallop sound on the highways…lol


You know what? If someone gets run over by a Prius because they didn’t hear the Prius coming, that’s not the Prius’ fault, it’s the fault of the idiot behind the wheel. I drive a Prius and since I know people can’t hear me coming, I take special care when watching for pedestrians, particularly kids, blind people, and anyone with his/her back to me. If somebody doesn’t/can’t see me, I gently honk the horn (I assure you, the horn is not quiet) so they know I’m there. I also try not to cruise up and down crowded aisles - no need to invite trouble.

The responsible and courteous thing to do, regardless of the vehicle you drive, is to avoid pedestrians whenever possible, pay attention to what’s going on around you, and for crying out loud get off your cell phone!

To paraphase a popular bumper sticker, “Priuses don’t kill people. People kill people.”

The obvious solution for these types of toy cars is to put playing cards in the spokes of the wheels…problem solved!!!

Now that’s funny right there! Thanks for the chuckle.

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