According to a recent study, hybrid cars are a greater risk to pedestrians than vehicles with internal combustion engines because of their quieter engines. Blind pedestrians are especially at risk, because they rely more heavily on auditory cues. In fact, a blind woman in Kansas City last year had her cane run over and broken by what she suspects was a hybrid vehicle.
Because of this heightened risk of a pedestrian accident, automakers are exploring ways to create noise and warn pedestrians, especially when a vehicle is driving under 10 miles per hour, when tires on pavement and other road noises are barely audible.
Congress also passed the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, which ordered a federal agency to examine the issue and potentially recommend a minimum amount of sound. Already, American drivers kill approximately 4,500 pedestrian and injure 70,000 others each year. And as hybrid cars gain in popularity, the issue of safety becomes even more important.
Safety experts fear electric cars too quiet, KansasCity.com, September 26, 2009
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