Silent car killers – 5/5/2008

If a tough car is involved in an accident with a feeble car, is it the fault of the driver for not paying attention to his surroundings or is it the fault of the car itself for being too tough?

This is similar to the dilemma that has fallen upon Toyota Prius owners for the car’s near-silent engine, which now poses a risk to the blind pedestrian.

With many hybrids on the road, there have been growing concerns about the safety of blind pedestrians who rely on sound to get by. Legislation that would set a minimum sound level for vehicles may even be heard before Congress.

What next? Legislation that would make a car body more flimsy?

Given the attention the media has afforded such stories, it seems that this concern is more noteworthy than the 400,000 killed in Darfur or the 80 killed during the protests against Chinese oppression in Tibet.

Is it really necessary to pass laws to set a minimum sound level for vehicles as a substitute for drivers not being aware of who or what is on the road? If the law passes and cars become loud enough for people to hear, will it be okay to drive blindfolded?

Any one who has read the California Drivers License Handbook should know that motorists need to be aware of their surroundings and that pedestrians always have the right of way at crosswalks.

A motorist needs to be responsible when driving in areas with large numbers of people. It’s not like “Grand Theft Auto III” where there is a big cash reward for running over pedestrians, no matter how tempting it is.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrians account for 11 percent of motor vehicle fatalities. The most common cause of these accidents is negligence on the motorist’s part.

It is the driver’s responsibility to be aware of his surroundings and be fully alert to pedestrians crossing the road. Drivers shouldn’t be expected to rely on their engine sound to warn pedestrians of their presence.

The engine of the hybrid car is only quiet if the car is being driven at a slow speed, which is also safe in suburban neighborhoods where children are present. Traveling at such a speed should give the driver enough of an opportunity to be aware and plenty of time to stop. Unless, of course, the government changes the laws to raise the minimum speed in neighborhoods so the engines could be heard.

Would it be better to install a device in the cars which would emit a sound to warn both pedestrians and other drivers? Such a law will not make the roads safer for pedestrians, it will instead motivate drivers to rely on their engine noise to warn pedestrians rather then be aware of their surroundings.

Published for La Voz Weekly
5/5/2008
Original Link: Silent car killers

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About Stan Rezaee
I'm a writer from San Jose who has contributed to several online and print publications.

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