I will be the first to admit that I do not look carefully when crossing a parking lot of a grocery store or a parking garage. I usually am busy finding my keys or wrestling bags and call on my hearing to alert me to oncoming cars. Enter the Prius. Those cars are so quiet; I feel they are sneaking up on me. I applaud that they are fuel efficient and the way of the future but to me they are still scary sneaky.
I was afraid of the Prius before all the recent problems emerged. I hope Toyota quickly fixes the immediate problems and then looks at this quite, sneaky problem. Usually Prius drivers are conscientious and are not speeding through parking lots or parking garages. Sometimes however they are like everyone else and are looking for a parking spot more than anticipating a middle aged women walking in front of them. Some of us have to admit that our hearing is not what it once was and those cars are so very quiet that our brain has not yet associated and register the very quite Prius engine sound as warning signal.
Vans, pick-ups and other cars have the back-up warning sound option as well as a distance alert option. I propose that Prius have this option in the forward position as well. Not only have I walked unintentionally in front of an on coming Prius in a parking lot, but I rode my bike in front of one or two too.
The New York Times ran a story about Hybrid engine noise, or lack thereof recently. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was cited in the NYT story to reveal that data on hybrids and pedestrians and bicyclists getting hit is up to twice the normal rate in parking lots and other places where cars travel slowly. I feel vindicated. It is not just me!
After years of trying to quite car noise, now manufacturers are looking at sounds to alert pedestrians. Some are adding models with some alert sounding sounds that they call “high-tech noise that broadcast their car’s presence and futuristic status”. Would that be R2D2 sounds? Marc Johns has a great illustration that would fit most Prius owners and alert pedestrians and bicyclists, “Excuse me, um, vroom, vroom”.
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