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Mike Bryant
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Pedestrians Need To Watch Out For Hybrids

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I’ve written about these cars a couple of times now. Interesting to see the reactions. Usually it’s been a point about me being a lawyer. That I am trying to create cases or something along those lines. I guess if you bought one of these cars, there has got to be a feeling that you are doing the right thing, so when you find out that the blind are upset with the cars, you have to lash out at someone. I do think that the cars have other fuel and emission advantages that are really the reason why it’s being sold. The sound was at best a nice selling point.

The issue is that they are a danger to pedestrians. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found:

Out of the vehicles in the study:

  • 8,387 were hybrids, of which 77 had struck a pedestrian — this works out to a 0.9 percent incidence rate

  • 559,703 vehicles were traditional gas-burners, which struck 3,578 pedestrians, which works out to a 0.6 percent incidence rate

Electric vehicles are thus determined to be 50 percent more dangerous to pedestrians. Of the pedestrian accidents, it was almost a fifty-fifty break on under or over 35 mph, with one-third of accidents not including speed limit information.

In accidents involving bicyclists, the numbers get worse:

  • 0.3 percent of standard cars on the road hit a bicyclist

  • 0.6 percent of HEVs hit a bicyclist

  • Out of the speed limit data available, 25 of 34 collisions were in a 35 or under zone, suggesting that city streets are the most dangerous places to be a cyclist

A study from the University of California, Riverside, as reported in the August 2008 issue of Scientific American, asked blindfolded subjects to listen to recordings of cars approaching at five miles per hour. Subjects could hear the hum of a Honda Accord’s internal-combustion engine 36 feet away. But they failed to identify a Prius, running in electric mode, until it came within 11 feet—affording them less than two seconds to react before the vehicle reached their position.

The noise added to hybrids wouldn’t have to be particularly loud, psychologist Lawrence Rosenblum said, given the human brain’s extreme sensitivity to approaching sounds relative to those that are fixed or moving away. Because the former are more likely to pose a threat, approaching sounds most readily stimulate regions of the brain associated with motor action. There is a question as to what sound? Should buyers be given a selection of sounds to choose? The research suggests that for now, the sound should be that of a car sound.