Silent Treatment

Are Hybrid Cars Too Quiet?

Did you ever think that a less audible car engine would be a bad thing? As hybrid vehicles rapidly increase in popularity, advocates for the blind and several safety groups are voicing concerns that the comparative silence of the green cars could cause an uptick in accidents. In fact, government research has shown that hybrid cars are twice as likely to be involved in pedestrian crashes at low speeds than other types, as they can approach unnoticed by unsuspecting walkers or people with vision problems. Congress is even considering a law requiring hybrid manufacturers to add an artificial sound to their engines, and many auto plants are already testing out ideas. “This is an example of too much of a good thing,” said one advocate of adding sounds. “Cars got quieter, that was good. Suddenly they got to be so quiet that it added an element of danger.”