The silent danger of hybrids - real or imagined?

An article in the Mercury News examines whether or not hybrids are dangerous to the walking public due to their lack of decibels when operating at low speeds. The cacophony of noise produced by a gas-powered car serves as a warning of approach for many people, particularly the blind. Hybrids have the ability to operate with near silence on battery power at low speeds, which the article postulates could make them dangerous to the iPod-toting, cell phone-talking pedestrian who isn’t paying attention.

While no unusual cases of a hybrid harming an unsuspecting pedestrian have been recorded (at least not any that couldn’t also have occurred with a gas-powered vehicle), the article is filled with personal anecdotes of individuals who swear they’ve almost either hit someone with or been hit by a Prius at low speed. Without any hard data to draw a conclusion either way, the author seems to be sensationalizing a problem that doesn’t actually exist, at least not yet.

While we’re not convinced a hybrid’s silence qualifies the vehicles as a real threat to society, there are solutions already being considered. Some suggest having the radiator fan turn on when a hybrid is operating on its batteries alone, or perhaps a beep similar to the one emitted by commercial vehicles when backing up.

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