Now hybrids are too quiet, apparently.
It’s not enough that they’re too expensive, too taxpayer subsidized – and usually, too slow. Now Congress is complaining that they’re too quiet. The blind are at risk, you see. They may not be able to hear the subtly silent hybrid car until they’re road pizza. So Congress wants to enact a law requiring car companies that build hybrids to make those hybrids noisier – eliminating the one worthwhile feature of hybrid vehicles.
I’ve test-driven all of them and one of the few things about hybrids that appealed to me as a consumer was that when they are operating on battery power, they’re almost dead silent. It is pleasant to travel a country road in the summer with the windows down, a gentle breeze in your hair and hear no sound other than natural sounds. And people in already noisy cities probably would appreciate vehicles that turn down the volume a bit.
But what about the blind?
Well, according to the National Federation of the Blind (www.nfb.org) there are approximately one million blind Americans as of 2010. That is not many blind people in a nation with 305 million people in it. Many areas of the U.S. such as small towns and rural counties probably have no more than a handful of blind people – if they have any at all.
Outside of big cities, there probably aren’t many blind people walking along the side of the road, where they might – possibly – be done in by a running silent hybrid
Yet Congress – our friends John Kerry in the Senate and (yes) Edolphus Towns in the House – are demanding that every hybrid car sold in every place in the United States be fitted with a device of some kind to make it produce noise just in case a blind pedestrian might be around – even if the odds of one actually being around are literally less than 1 percent.
According to the National Highway Traffic Traffic Safety Administration, 4,900 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles in 2009 (the most recent year for which data are available). That’s everyone – not blind pedestrians. NHTSA – and the NFIB – don’t break it down for us, but we can safely assume, based on the proportion of blind people vs. the general population, that of the 4,900 killed, maybe 1 percent of those fatalities involved a blind person.
So, let’s peg it at about 49 people nationwide out of a population of 305 million.
And that’s just my guesstimate. The actual figure could be much lower. Not all the 1 million blind people in the U.S. are pedestrians, after all. If you apply the same demographic breakdown to the blind population that you’d apply to the general population, probably a quarter of the blind are elderly and don’t walk at all – the streets or otherwise. Another quarter are babies or young children who also don’t walk the streets – or don’t walk them unsupervised by an adult.
This isn’t about being callous toward the blind. It’s a sanity check. Passing federal laws that impose another layer of costs on literally hundreds of millions of people on the basis of microscopic risk to a tiny fraction of the population is insane. It is part of the reason why our jobs have been offshored to less demented lands that don’t have navel-gazing lawmakers whose priorities are so skewed they would not qualify as porters tasked with re-arranging the deck chairs on Titanic.
Instead of suggesting that maybe the federal government should tweak our laws so that Americans could buy the affordably priced 60-plus MPG non-hybrid subcompacts and 50 MPG diesel cars that are commonly available in Europe but not available here thanks to our asinine regulatory regime – we have Kerry and Adolf twittering themselves silly over too-quiet hybrids.
The Chinese must be laughing themselves silly.