Pedestrians and Dangers From Hybrid Vehicles

By: Valerie Nay

The other day, I put a scare into both myself and a driver when I almost stepped out in front of her hybrid car. She was shaken up and looked stunned that an adult would be so careless. I was just embarrassed.

But as I told a friend about it the next day, I found that it's more common than I thought. He had done the same thing a few weeks earlier. Then, someone else told me about a woman who was putting groceries in the trunk of her car and didn't even realize that a hybrid vehicle nearly backed into her!

Hybrid cars are so popular that auto manufacturers are having a hard time keeping up with the demand. The ones already on the market include Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry, Toyota Highlander, Lexus, Honda Civic, Honda Accord and the Ford Escape.

They use both gas and batteries to operate. At higher speeds, they run on gasoline just like any other car. However, at lower speeds (such as less than 20 mph), hybrids are powered by batteries. At the slower speeds, these battery-powered cars have virtually no noise compared to their motorized counterparts that have a running engine.

As great as they are for the environment, the problem is, you can't always hear them coming!

Pedestrian groups say the lack of noise poses a new hazard to people,especially those who are blind or don't hear very well. While these groups are still in favor of the benefits that hybrid cars offer - a cleaner, greener environment and less noise pollution - they say these new safety concerns need to be addressed and are working with manufacturers to come up with solutions.

Meanwhile, it's up to us.Both drivers of hybrid cars and pedestrians need to be reminded that things are a little different than they used to be.

* Whether you are driving or walking - Be aware of what's going on around you and never make someone else responsible for your safety!
* Remember and practice proper safety measures when crossing the street. Use crosswalks, look both ways, and don't walk out from between cars.
* Be extra alert if you are talking on your cell phone or having a heated conversation.
* Be clearly visible to the driver. Make sure they see you. Crossing the street from between two parked cars makes it difficult and is extra risky. That goes double if it's after dark.
* Look for signals on automobiles that can tell you they are in operation. Look for reverse lights. Look for headlights. Cars manufactured within the last few years come with daytime running lights. If the lights are on, that can be a signal that the driver is getting ready to pull out.
* Always make sure you have emergency contact information with you, whether you're driving or walking.

Hybrid cars are here to stay and lots of us like that idea, but everyone needs to take extra precautions to safeguard themselves as pedestrians. If you drive one yourself, just remember pedestrians can't necessarily hear you coming, so be extra alert when they are present.

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