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This from the AP today: BALTIMORE - 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.
Officials with the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind are quick to point out that they’re not advocating a return to gas guzzlers. They’d just like the fuel-efficient hybrids to make some noise.
NFB President Marc Maurer said he received an e-mail from an environmentalist who suggested that the members of his group should be the first to drown when sea levels rise from global warming.
“I don’t want to pick that way of going, but I don’t want to get run over by a quiet car, either,” Maurer said.
The NFB — the leading advocacy group for 1.3 million legally blind people in the United States — made pleas to the auto industry and to federal and state agencies, with little concrete success so far. On Wednesday, the president of the NFB’s Maryland chapter planned to present written testimony asking for a minimum sound standard for hybrids to be included in the state’s emissions regulations.”
Perhaps the hybrid makers could dial in a sound card that sounds like a Harley. When I complained in this blog months ago about how loud motorcycles are, bikers wrote me to say that they keep their bikes loud for “safety” reasons, so surrounding cars could hear them.