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When Silence Is not Golden: Government Taking Steps to Avoid Pedestrian Hybrid Car Accidents

December 26, 2010

No matter whether you are walking around the block on a quiet suburban street or making the trek to the store along a busy highway, pedestrians who lack any physical protection are always at risk from motor vehicle accidents. This risk is increasing with the growing number of hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius. Hybrid vehicles idle quietly with engines that are virtually inaudible at less than twenty miles per hour.

Because pedestrians cannot hear a hybrid approaching, they are far more likely to enter an intersection or crosswalk in front of an approaching hybrid car. A bill that has been approved by Congress which is making its way to President Obama's desk would require federal transportation officials to set standards requiring hybrid vehicles to make more noise.

At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we have been handling serious Georgia car accidents for over 39 years. The dilemma created by the silent engines of hybrids is an example of how advances in the design of automobiles can have the unintended consequence of creating new safety risks. Sometimes there is an inverse relationship between advances in technology and increased safety. Hybrid technology that is designed to protect the environment can pose an unreasonable risk of danger to pedestrians who are the most unprotected of those who share our roadways. The current attempts by the federal government to increase the noise level of hybrids follows a similar step already approved in Japan.

The problem only occurs at low speeds when hybrids cars are traveling 20 miles per hour or slower. At higher rates of speed, hybrid vehicles emit enough noise to be detected by pedestrians. The risk of serious injury to pedestrians is particularly acute for pedestrians who are sight-impaired. Sight impaired pedestrians rely on being able to hear traffic to avoid being hit by a car. With hybrids that make no engine noise, blind pedestrians have absolutely no way to detect the presence of an approaching vehicle. A recent study found that a blind person could hear a car with a conventional engine approaching from as far away as 28 feet but could not hear a hybrid until it was within seven feet. This means that sight-impaired pedestrians cannot determine a hybrid car is approaching until it is approximately one second from impact.

This legislation comes as at a good time as more car manufacturers are producing hybrid cars and the sales volume of hybrids continues to rise significantly. Hybrids also put others pedestrians at risk because the engine is so quiet that it is difficult to determine if the car engine is running and in gear which means it can jolt forward and run over unsuspecting pedestrians. Any pedestrian entering a roadway, intersection or crosswalk may fail to detect a silent vehicle.

The legislation to add noise-emitting systems to hybrids should eventually reduce the risk caused by quiet operation of hybrid engines at low rates of speed. In the meantime, more hybrids on Georgia roadways mean that pedestrians face an increasing risk of injury from hybrid pedestrian accidents.

Our experienced Georgia pedestrian auto accident attorneys are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located we are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24 hour Live Online Chat.

Our attorneys and staff will work hard to protect your interests and get you the compensation you deserve.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.