Risk of Chicago Pedestrian Accidents Caused by Quiet Cars

Soaring oil prices have led millions to seek an alternative to gas-guzzling vehicles. However, in their purchase of the more environmentally-friendly hybrid electric cars, drivers of these vehicles may be more prone to involvement in a Chicago pedestrian accident.

The reason is outlined in a study recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Essentially, as our Chicago pedestrian accident lawyers understand it, it’s this: Hybrid vehicles make less noise. That means pedestrians are less likely to hear a hybrid vehicle when it’s backing up, turning or pulling into or out of a parking space or driveway.

In fact, when moving at slower speeds, hybrids are two times more likely than a gas-powered vehicle to strike a pedestrian.

At particular risk, according to study officials, are blind pedestrians. And those dealing with big-city traffic already face similar risks: If you don’t hear a vehicle above the din of traffic, you are more likely to be victimized by a driver who fails to yield or does not pay attention.

Advocates are calling for regulations that would require hybrid cars to install a sound-emitting device or sound-creating feature, so pedestrians could be alerted to oncoming traffic, according to a recent article on MSNBC.

The chairwoman of the National Federation of the Blind’s Committee on Automotive and Pedestrian Safety said she conducted an unofficial test herself in a parking lot, to see whether she could hear an approaching hybrid vehicle. Years of relying on her ears had given her a keen sense of hearing, which she was confident would detect the car.

It wasn’t enough.

“To my great dismay, I couldn’t hear it,” she was quoted as saying.

It’s likely to be an issue of increasing concern, as more and more, people are turning to hybrid vehicles. In fact, automotive research firms indicate that registration for new hybrid cars and trucks were up almost 50 percent across the country in the first six months of 2007, compared to the same time frame the year before. Almost 500,000 Priuses have been sold since they were released in 2000, and there are almost 900,0000 hybrid cars on the road today.

That number is only expected to increase.

The National Federation of the Blind has made several pleas to auto manufacturers, asking them to install some sound devices on hybrid cars. Some, like the makers of the Chevrolet Volt, have listened. Others have been slower to react.

A Toyota spokesman, however, said part of the appeal of Prius was the fact that not only did it have low carbon emissions, it also had a reduced level of noise pollution. He didn’t completely dismiss the concerns posed by the federation, but said the future would be about striking a balance.

But in fact, it’s not only blind people who have had close calls. One California woman in her 50s said she has 20/20 vision and has almost been hit by a hybrid – twice.

“I never realized how dependent I was on my ears until I almost got hit,” she was quoted as saying.

Until car manufacturers and regulators take action on this issue, it’s important for both motorists of hybrids and pedestrians to be aware of the problem, and travel with the appropriate caution.

If you, your child or an elderly loved one has been injured in a Chicago pedestrian accident, the personal injury attorneys and wrongful death lawyers at Abels & Annes offer free and confidential appointments to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

Additional Resources:

Quieter Cars and the Safety of Blind Pedestrians, Phase 2: Development of Potential Specifications for Vehicle Countermeasure Sounds, Final Report, NHTSA

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