Marketing campaigns for hybrid and electric vehicles would have us believe that switching to more fuel-efficient, low-emission transportation will ultimately save us all from combustion-induced cataclysmic doom. However, Rhode Island legislators are ironically wrestling with a surprising reality, which is that hybrid and electric vehicles pose a substantial risk of electrocuting and possibly killing rescue workers who attempt to free a trapped passenger with the jaws of life. The Prius has never been more terrifying.
Because rescue workers using extrication tools like the jaws of life can unwittingly cut into the high-voltage line that runs along the bottom of many hybrid and electric vehicles and expose themselves to deadly electrocution, Rhode Island will require owners of such vehicles to adopt a distinguishing license plate. The identifying license plate will properly warn ambulance workers and firefighters of the potential risk when they arrive at an accident scene involving an electric or hybrid car.
While some vehicles like the Toyota Prius or Tesla Model S are easily identifiable as hybrids, the continuing proliferation of hybrid and electric vehicle technologies has found its way into many vehicles which are much less recognizable as such. Something like a Nissan Leaf might announce itself fairly clearly, but anyone not in the know could be easily foiled by a Ford Fusion Energi, given its visual similarities to the gasoline-powered version.
The electric vehicle license plate legislation was sponsored by Rhode Island Senator Edward O’Neill, and it was signed into law last month by Governor Lincoln Chafee. “It is not very well-known that rescue workers can get electrocuted from using jaws of life on an electric vehicle, but when that information came to light I wanted us to be proactive about the issue,” said O’Neill told Rhode Island’s Valley Breeze. The words “Electric/Hybrid” will replace “Ocean State” at the bottom of the license plate, which will be required for all new and currently registered electric vehicles.