Sunday, October 07, 2007

Hybrids deemed unsafe by the visually impaired

With gas prices the way they are, hybrid vehicles are becoming a popular choice among motorists, but visually impaired pedestrians say the cars are possible safety hazards.For a blind pedestrian walking a busy intersection is no easy task.

Other senses, especially hearing, are heavily relied on.Peggy Lee reports Maryland's Federation Of The Blind rallied outside the state's Department Of Environment Wednesday demanding the agency require auto makers to design hybrid vehicles to produce sound."The Maryland Department Of The Environment is about to adopt regulations to get more low emission vehicles on the street, which is fine with us, but these cars are silent.

Blind pedestrians cannot hear them when they approach and the Maryland Department of the Environment is not addressing that," said Chris Danielsen from the Federation Of The Blind.Hybrid vehicles run quieter than regular cars. In a test, the visually impaired couldn't hear hybrids running on battery power approaching the intersection.When a Toyota hybrid runs on gasoline, it sounds pretty much like a regular car.

But when it switches over and runs solely on battery it's practically impossible to hear.The Department Of Environment says while they can't regulate the safety devices on vehicles, they promise to work with the auto industry to research possible options."Devices that emit a noise that a blind person might be able to hear or a technology that would involve an electronic signal that would be emitted from the vehicle to a pager or other device that a person might wear," said Shari Wilson from the Department Of Environment.

Under the 2007 Clean Air Act, the Department Of Environment must consider the needs of the visually impaired when drafting hybrid vehicle regulations.


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