NEWS: Boy hit by quiet Prius hybrid spawns debate

May 8, 2008
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Minneapolis-St. Paul television station KARE 11 is reporting an eight-year-old bicyclist has been hit by a car and thrown onto the vehicle's hood.
Tragic news, for sure, but there is a unique twist to this particular accident. The young bicyclist's mother says her son (who suffered no major injuries) never heard the vehicle approaching because it was a Toyota Prius operating on battery power.
This and similar accidents pose a new, legitimate hybrid safety concern for car companies - if an oncoming vehicle is made to be silent, how can pedestrians and bicyclists avoid it?
Other than looking directly at an electric hybrid, it doesn't seem automakers have an immediate answer to the question.
Last month, KARE 11 reports legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representative that could eventually require hybrids to emit a minimum amount of noise (this has become a priority for the National Federation of the Blind, which believes Hybrids pose a real threat to those who rely on noise for safety reasons).
Toyota has not taken a position on the new hybrid legislation, but John Hanson, Toyota's national manager of environmental, safety and quality communications, said he is aware of public concerns and that "We do have to step back and take a look."
Whether Hanson was talking about Toyota taking a step back or pedestrians and bicyclists keeping further away from hybrids is unclear, but we can't wait to hear how automakers will resolve this issue (no pun intended).
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