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Vehicular Silence and Pedestrian Deaths

More than 11 percent of the 41,000 people killed on America's roads in 2007 were pedestrians, a fact of no concern to some of Our Readers Who Comment today on a story that says engineers are trying to figure out how to make quiet hybrid vehicles a little noisier so people who walk can hear them coming.

While many readers think this is a good idea, others find it ridiculous and suggest silly ways to solve the problem -- or suggest there is no problem to solve. Nonetheless, as Peter Whoriskey writes, "some automakers are seeking to address concerns in the United States and Japan that the nearly noiseless vehicles may be so quiet that they pose a threat to pedestrians"

One Prius driver agrees, based on his experience in his parking lot; another says he bought a Prius because it is quiet and let's keep it that way. Several readers suggest amusing sounds that could be employed. Some want to make sure whatever happens isn't as noisy as the persistent beep emitted by backing trucks. But as one bicyclist observed (I'm a bicyclist and can testify that this observation is absolutely correct) pedestrians tend to listen first, and if they hear nothing, step into the street before they look.

We'll start with EZE33 wrote, "My wife and I have learned to be extra-vigilant when driving our Prius in a parking lot; more than once we've startled people as we pulled up next to them. When our son was very young, I'd long for a muscle-car rumble to help him doze off during our drives. That's the sound effect I'd support for our Prius!"

But DO2L said, "I have a Prius and I say don't add any noise. One of the reasons I bought it is for the quiet. I am also an avid biker and walker. I know the risks. Learn to pay attention to your surroundings..."

hock1 wrote, "Oh, gee! Would asking the pedestrian to be alert put too much stress on their little brains? Typical, always put the blame on others."

But Cobalt1 said, "...something should be done. As any bicyclist who's had people step out in front of them knows, pedestrians regularly use their ears first, step out, then look... Further, why does it seem that we can't act on common sense. We don't need to wait to count how many people the cars have killed to know it's more dangerous..."

And obblehit asked, "Are you kidding me, really? This is article-worthy?"

mamerica wrote, "It is the drivers responsibility to watch out for the pedestrian. Just as it has always been. It requires a bit more focus on their part."

PJTramdack suggested, "This problem was solved decades ago on Good Humor ice cream trucks. Suggested tunes: 1) Pop Goes the Weasel, 2) Yankee Doodle, 3) Dixie (for DC and points south, 4) and, at Christmas time, The Little Drummer Boy..."

And myhonestopinion advised, "Have it quack!"

But Observer10 wrote, "...Blind people are conditioned to expect a car if a car sound is approaching so the sound should sound like an old fashion traditional car. Drivers shouldn't have a choice. If they did blind people would have to be taught all of the various noises that could possibly mean an approaching car..."

bk0512 asked, "Rather than adding yet more noise to the (already) noisy urban environment, why not give visually impaired people a tool that detects on-coming vehicles."

scorekeepn wrote, "Don't pedestrians have the right of way? Not to mention the fact that 99.999 percent of all cars are NOT hybrid or electric..."

stivd said, "I advocate requiring that a man walk in front of the vehicle carrying a red flag and that they be limited to 2 mph."

hpottle wrote, "...A gentle tone (as oppposed to the ear-piercing shriek now heard from backing commercial vehicles) on reversing might be appropriate. Perhaps the proponents would like us to use the clothespin/playing card noisemakers popular among juvenile bicycle riders."

simpleton1 said, "...please, for the love of god, make the noise a whirring or something otherwise engine-like -- do not do the backing up beep or anything like it."

SamClarkJr wrote, "Please abandon this misguided proposal!(Were it not for the fact that well-intentioned smart people promote it, I would say the idea is inane.) Requiring electric vehicles to make noise would be comparable to requiring solar panel manufacturers to build in smoke generators to comfort people that miss smog from coal plants..."

We'll close with floof, who wrote, "This is a really good idea. I have almost been run over by hybrigds a few times- in my townhouse cluster, I live next to a sharp turn. If these cars are coming at a high rate of speed, I can't see OR hear them. It's very scary, especially since I need to cross the street with small children."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  September 23, 2009; 7:40 AM ET
 | Tags: Electric Cars, Highway Safety, Pedestrians  
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Thank you for the summary!

Posted by: RossEmery | September 23, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

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