Concerns Over Quiet Hybrid Cars

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Hybrid cars are making a lot of noise when it comes to fuel efficiency and saving money at the pump.

But what they're not doing is making a lot of noise on the road. And that concerns members of our community who fear someone may get hurt by the silence.

With the price of gas inching near 4 dollars a gallon statewide, hybrid cars in Hawaii are hot sellers. Dealers can't get enough of them. And drivers are drawn to fuel ratings over 40 miles per gallon. "Fuel economy a year ago was something people are considering, now fuel economy is a big reason why someone is looking at a car." says Don Brower, the General Sales Manager for Pflueger Honda.

But while some may like what they see when it comes to hybrids at the pump, one segment of the community doesn't like what they hear....nothing. "As soon as the hybrid gets close to the curb I can't even hear if there are even there. Cause I am used to listening to idling cars." says Virgil Stinnett, a blind resident of Waikiki.

Stinnett spends a lot of time walking around Waikiki. And like some, relies on noise to let him know if cars are there. He would like the quiet hybrid cars to come with some sort of audible alert.

Sounds are already being used here to assist the visually impaired at crosswalks. But even the blind say those loud clanging or ringing sounds letting them know when to cross is too much noise.

"It doesn't even have to be that much because I am focused on the sounds around me." adds Stinnett.

This is not just an issue for blind pedestrians, there is concern elderly walkers or young kids may not notice a car coming. "Its not that we're anti-green, we want things to be more friendly to the environment. But if we don't get ahead of this quiet car thing, we're going to have people getting hit by cars." says Mike Jones, another blind Waikiki Resident.

This legislative session a measure over hybrid car noise was introduced to local lawmakers. And on a national level lawmakers are also listening to the debate over the quiet cars.