As Kaus at Slate put it, ringtones anyone?

Blind pedestrians protest quiet hybrid cars

CBS News reported on Wednesday that members of the Maryland affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind are protesting against hybrid cars on the grounds that they are too quiet to hear coming. Advocates for the blind would like some sort of noise-maker added, such as objects in the wheel wells.

The protesters carried signs saying “Hybrids give me a run down feeling” and “We want ‘squeaky’ clean cars” and “Hybrid makers, make a sound decision.”

The dispute began last winter when a bill was introduced in Maryland to require more hybrid cars to be sold and advocates for the blind asked that it also require noise-making devices.

Tests have suggested that some hybrids are completely undetectable by the blind. Automakers and government officials have acknowledged the problem but have so far not taken action, while some hybrid owners and noise pollution activists are resistant to the idea of artificially making cars noisier.

I know! Playing cards in the spokes!

  1. moss says:

    What a crock! I hope they were just looking for publicity and not serious.

    Saying that, I almost walked out in front of a hybrid Lexus RX400h in a parking lot a few weeks back. Guess what? That would have been my fault. I did hear his tyres on the pavement.

  2. TheBlob says:

    As a bicyclist I can tell you that this problem affects more than the blind. A bicycle makes less noise than a hybrid. If you can see you need to look before stepping into the street, you’d be amazed how many people don’t. If you are blind then you need to cross at the crosswalk and wear bright colors so drivers can see you.

  3. jbenson2 says:

    Where is the outrage at the electric golf carts? Sure, I’m being outrageous, but these lawsuits are taking us down a very slippery slope.

    Let’s use some common sense. Does anyone really believe that a noise-maker in the wheel wells of a Prius will help a blind person navigate the streets of New York with all the other noises from trucks, taxis, jack hammers, road construction, etc. Will those noise-makers be sued because they are too loud and the blind can’t hear the Prius? Unfortunately, the answer is probably yes.

    This is similar to the ruse that is being thrown at Target to re-write their website so that it is more user friendly for blind people.

    Mark my words. It won’t be long before the kids with “disabilities” like ADD and ADHD start suing to have websites use shorter sentences to accommodate their attention-spans.

  4. Shane says:

    Why don’t we just require the blind to wear a big orange traffic cone on their heads instead? Maybe a head mounted strobe?

  5. Dallas says:

    This is ridiculous indeed. I can just see the automotive industry get into downloadable ringtone equivalent for the cars or rather ” Muffler Tones”.

    If you’re blind or a bicycle rider, get yourself a personal radar. We don’t need to propose noise generators.

  6. gquaglia says:

    Just goes to show no matter what you do, good, bad or indifferent, some asshole is going to have a problem with it.

  7. Mr. Fusion says:

    #3, jb,

    Sometimes your posts are just over the top. Correction, usually they are.

    Does anyone really believe that a noise-maker in the wheel wells of a Prius will help a blind person navigate the streets of New York

    This concerns Maryland, not New York.

  8. Mr. Fusion says:

    #6, gq,

    Just goes to show no matter what you do, good, bad or indifferent, some asshole is going to have a problem with it.

    So now the blind are assholes because they are asking to be considered on health reasons? Maybe there is a simple compromise that would make everyone happy that sighted people would never have thought of on their own.

    The issue has less to do with errant blind pedestrians then it does with drivers not yielding to pedestrians. Since not all drivers are conscientious enough, a secondary safety factor is being asked for.

  9. Glenn E says:

    Well I’m glad DU finally posted this article after it appeared on the news. Because I really wanted to say something about it. And most of you have already said everything I could think of. What I suspect is that big oil is behind this smear campaign, by financial supporting the cause of this blind advocacy group. None of them ever complain about bikes or running shoes, or those razor scooters. Soon as an electric car comes on the market, the cry-babies come out. Coincidence? I think not.

    So they want the Hybrids to be noisy. As if they could be heard over all the other cars and trucks. Yeah, good luck with that. How about them making the noise of horses’ hooves? To match their 19th century thinking? And shouldn’t the heels of running shoes squeak loudly, too? And what about Kite?! Those silent menaces can swoop down on unsuspecting blind people, and put an eye out. Oh wait, they won’t miss that. Well maybe it would lodge in their ear, somehow. My advice to the blind, venturing out into traffic, or the real world. Get a dog, or deal with the fact that the world isn’t 100% hazard free, just for you.

    As a constructive alternative suggestion about silent cars. They could be equipped with a pulsing IR emitter on the front. And the blind would carry a detector that makes the sound for them alone to hear, as such a vehicle approaches them. This would be more easily done that having any vehicle trying to general its own distinctive noise. The only downside would be the addition IR pollution. Your TV remotes won’t be usable out on the mean streets. Damn!

  10. JimR says:

    As a good citizen, when I silently roll up behind a blind person in my Prius, I honk the horn.

  11. Andy says:

    I am a Prius owner, and this topic has been going around on the Prius Chat website all week. As a driver, I should be paying attention to my surroundings at all times, no matter what car I’m driving. If I see someone riding a bike in the bike lane, I’m going to keep an eye on him until I pass him and neither of us is in any danger of collision. I’ve had bikes swerve out of the bike lane to avoid a tree branch or something, even before I was driving the Prius. If I’m at a crosswalk, then I’m watching the pedestrians whether they are blind or not. They have the right of way in a crosswalk, whether they walk out in front of the car or not. First, I don’t want to hurt someone, and second, I don’t want them to bang up my car as I run them over 🙂

    It comes down to this – people don’t want to take responsibility or accountability for their own actions anymore, and are constantly looking out for someone or something to blame rather than themselves. I failed a test at school? It must be my ADHD and not the fact that I didn’t study because I spent all night playing Warcraft. I’m a pedestrian in a mall parking lot and I get hit by a car? May be the fact that it was a Prius and I couldn’t hear it rather than the fact that I was talking on my phone and not paying attention to my own surroundings. Or, on the other hand, I’m driving through a parking lot and hit someone? It must be because that person wasn’t looking where they were going and not the fact that with my quiet car I need to be more vigilant in watching for people who aren’t paying attention.

    Everyone simply wants to place the blame onto someone else and not turn the mirror on themselves to see what they could do to help the situation.

    Damn, I can’t believe it, I sound like my father now 🙂

  12. MikeN says:

    Well yes the blind are assholes for complaining. The environment is too important to deal with such pesky concerns as more dead people. See CAFE rules of more fuel mileage leading to more traffic deaths.

  13. Jess Hurchist says:

    I’ve read – – that most car noise is made by the tyres for cars traveling at constant speed.

  14. Mark T. says:

    This has to be a publicity stun dreampt up by some crank publicist. Why does the press feel like this stuff is newsworthy? Is anything that is ridiculous at face value automatically news?

    This has to be right up there with bulldozers that have to have reversing sirens so that nimrods don’t get run over by one in while backing up.

    I fully expect Congress to snap to attention and add sirens, flashing lights, and cattle catchers to the Prius in the 2008 model year.

  15. hhopper says:

    “Just goes to show no matter what you do, good, bad or indifferent, some asshole is going to have a problem with it.”

    Exactly like on Dvorak Uncensored. No matter what we post…

  16. Robert says:

    Hey, it’s the survival of the fittest. I guess they can’t make it.

    DRIVE ON!!!!!

  17. natefrog says:

    When I first saw this headline, I figured it had to be a story from The Onion. Alas, no…

    I tend to feel the same way I fell about Target being sued over their website. The world isn’t equal, especially for disabled people. No matter how hard you try, it’s always going to be like that. Small measures are OK to try; ramps, automatic doors, etc.

    But this is going to far.

    How about we just slap the cool whistles and buzzes on the cars that the hovercraft always make in sci-fi movies?

  18. jbenson2 says:


    The blind are not restricting this issue to only Maryland. The protestors are members of the National Federation of the Blind. But just to satisfy your anal nature, Baltimore has the same sort of noise issues as New York City.

  19. Mark Derail says:

    #9 As a Prius owner and activist, I can tell you, this wasn’t a smear campaign.

    The Association for the Blind simply know that the trend in the next 20 years will be all Electric or Hybrids on the road, outnumbering Noisy Motors.

    The Association for the Blind thus want the issue of noiseless cars to be addressed for the FUTURE.

    Then, all it took was a lousy reporter / lousy reporting (pick) to blow this out of proportion.

    All it takes is a 5$ speaker / ticker to make a certain noise, to replace an idling car, at a STOP SIGN or RED LIGHT.

    This noise maker would be very low in decibels, directional, and very low frequency.

  20. Mark Derail says:

    #0 You mean Spokey Dokeys, right?

  21. James Hill says:

    #7, your posts are usually shit. Wait, they’re always shit.

    Owned. Again. It’s just that easy.

  22. Gasbag says:

    Now I have found a reason to buy a hybrid. Watch out bind people : )

  23. Um … people, this is not really a new issue. In my first camry, a 1987, it was so quiet that once, while driving on a side rode, my wife and I had to stop … wait … still nothing … and finally honk to wake up the sleeping cat in the road. And, the cat was neither deaf nor dead. I think we all just need to be careful when we drive, regardless of whether it’s a prius or a honking huge ass SUV barreling down the road as if it’s a sports car. As long as the driver isn’t blind or drunk or on their damn smell phone, we should be fine.

  24. OmarTheAlien says:

    Why, I wonder, would a blind person be walking in the road?

  25. 888 says:

    Im sorry someone else is blind, but how is that my problem?

    how about a sign
    will that make them feel better and more equal?

    If youre blind don’t cross the street without help, don’t they teach them such basic common sense in the schools for blind?


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