More on the Danger of Quiet Cars (Hybrids)

I recently submitted a report to our Mayor and Council (I am chair of  the Halifax Regional Municipality Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities. It was the second such report that I have submitted requesting they to write to the auto industry and auto trade associations. Our committee agreed that the QUIET CHARACTERISTIC  of Hybrid vehicles poses a significant danger to people who can not see them (example: blind and partially sighted people, distracted kids, and people tuned out with their I-Pods etc.).  A pedestrian who can not see or hear a vehicle approaching, faces significant risk.  Soon after I submitted the first report, I was surprised to receive a message that “there’s a problem”. I was mystified about what it could be. Somewhere along the line, the Environmental Sustainability Department got wind that ‘the ACPWD wants to ban hybrids’.  The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) owns a small fleet of these cars, AND have ordered some hybrid diesel buses. I cam imagine the panic over this, all because of mis-communication.  A meeting with that department manager cleared the air.  They were relieved to know that we have no desire to ban hybrids. We explained that all we want to ensure, is the adoption of a standard for emission of SOUND from these vehicles. We fully support the work towards a sustainable environment plan.  How ironic that I, of all people should be misconceived as a poopaher of environmental initiatives! I’m the one who harps on about reducing, reusing, and recycling to anyone who will listen (and then some). Once the air was cleared, I tweaked the letter and report to the Mayor and council and re-submitted it. We are waiting to hear from them.  I pointed out that EXISTING vehicles can be modified with devices to ensure that they are audible (without turning them into noise makers). I think this is a timely issue, given the sky-rocketing price of gasoline which is creating a tidal wave of orders for hybrid cars all over North America, including Halifax. Groups such as the NFB (National Federation of the Blind -U.S.A.) and the AEBC (Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians) are pushing  for legislation to create a standard for sound emission from hybrid vehicles. It would be so much wiser and easier to be proactive by facing it NOW, rather than delay and create a complicated and long struggle (during which time people would face peril and injury). If we think back to the resistance to seat belts and similar changes in the automobile industry that eventually became the legislated norm, I think the industry might listen and bite the bullet sooner rather than later. 

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