Uncle wants to require that hybrid and electric cars be fitted with devices that make them noisy, so that the blind will be aware of their presence.
Apparently, there is an epidemic of blind – er, visually impaired – people being run over by silent-running hybrid and electric vehicles.
Hard data is hard to come by, but I did find a 2009 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Technical Report (here) on the subject. According to this document, over a seven year period (2000-2007) a nationwide tsunami of 72 pedestrians were “involved” in crashes with hybrid-electric vehicles. Another 48 bicyclists were struck by a hybrid or electric car (or the reverse) over the same period.
The study does not break down how many of the 77 were blind.
I assume none of the 48 cyclists were.
I could not find more recent data, but unless there has been a surge in the number of blind people being flattened by hybrids and electric cars, it is probably still a very small number. Probably under 100… out of a population of about 320 million.
But the individual cases, when they do occur, make for highly combustible oh-the-humanity media coverage. Just as the individual cases of a sail fawn-gabbling parent inadvertently backing their car over a toddler did – and became the justification for a new mandate requiring that all new cars be fitted with closed-circuit cameras built into the rear bumper and an LCD monitor up front. Notwithstanding, by the way, that the view rearward as seen this way is inferior to the view one gets by looking back there using one’s own eyes. Which have depth perception and can also see things on the periphery – which the cameras can’t.
Now, the safety jihadis are ululating that the hundreds of thousands of hybrid and electric cars sold annually be fitted with noisemakers – specifically, waterproof speakers, which will produce some sort of faux IC engine sound, at an estimated cost to the car industry (that is, to you and me) of $23 million in the first year – because perhaps 72 blind people have either been run over by – or walked into – a hybrid or electric car.
The latter in italics for good reason.
Just as as backing up over a child arguably involves negligence on the part of the parent/driver (shouldn’t parents of toddlers be obliged to be aware where their toddlers are before putting the gear selector into Reverse?) so also the assignation of at least some of the blame for incidents “involving” the blind and hybrid-electric cars lies with the the blind themselves.
Pu another way: Should blindness absolve the blind person from taking care to not place his body in the path of a hybrid or electric car?
Why should it be entirely up to the owner of the hybrid-electric car to not only pay attention to his driving and exercise due care, but also to pay for an annoying sound-maker to alert a jaywalking or oblivious blind person to the presence of his vehicle? If the blind person is crossing the street legally, then traffic – hybrid and otherwise – will be stopped.
If, on the other hand, the jaywalker is crossing against traffic, which has the legal right-of-way, how is it the hybrid or electric car driver’s fault if the blind guy suddenly appears in his path?
In any case, this whole business is much ado about very little.
A very expensive much ado.
Despite the minimal – the almost nonexistent – actual body count, NHTSA is arguing that a hypothetical 2,800 pedestrian and cyclist injuries (not deaths) would be avoided by imposing $23 million in first-year implementation costs on the car industry.
That is, on car buyers.
NHTSA – government, generally – loves to confect victims in the absence of actual ones. It helps to justify the jihad. The VW “cheating” thing is another case in point. But at least that “involved” hundreds of thousands of cars.
It’s slightly embarrassing to insist that $23 million be spent – that is, imposed – on the car industry, on car buyers, because fewer than a 100 actual people (a fraction of whom are blind people) over a seven-year period have had some kind of unfortunate interaction with a hybrid or electric car.
But let’s say it is the “2,800” postulated by NHTSA.
The cost per incident is still astronomical. Lives are infinitely valuable to those who possess them. But imposing infinite costs for the sake of others’ lives is is economically insensate. The fact is we do place a value on lives – ours as well as others.
This is called cost-benefit analysis.
Certainly, it is tragic when a blind person is struck by a car – hybrid or otherwise. But $23 million to prevent it?
Paying attention would be a lot cheaper.
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