Guide Dogs Releases Video On Dangers Of Quiet Cars


In the video above, Guide Dogs discusses the supposed dangers of quiet cars (electric cars).

We need to first mention that we are deeply sorry for those who suffer from blindness and apologize for offending anyone with our opinion on this matter.

Jaywalking, That is illegal!

Jaywalking, That is illegal in the US likely for this reason!

However, if you frequent the InsideEVs website, you will see a repeat mention of EVs being silent, quiet, etc. and that most owners of electric cars absolutely love the fact of how quiet they are.

Auto manufacturers of EVs even advertise this. This quietness is one of the key traits of an all electric vehicle.

Of note: The recently released 2016 Chevrolet Volt specification sheet (full details here) notes that an “automatic audible signal” is activated “during low speed driving”.

Going back to the “dangers” part, we noticed multiple problems. First, we noticed that one of the screen texts states; “Quiet cars are 40% more likely to be involved in a pedestrian collision than conventional cars. Source: TAS.”  We wonder, how did this TAS arrive at this conclusion, and what are the “quiet cars” today?

Vehicles (that make engine noise) have been around for over a century. Still today these loud vehicles are involved in ongoing incidents of a driver hitting a pedestrian ~ everyday, and most of these car/pedestrian incidents involve conventional cars, which suggests to us that vehicle noise has little relation to accidents involving pedestrians.

It is true that excessively noisy vehicles would tip off both those who are blind, hard of hearing or just unaware, but we suspect there is a threshold where the returns are diminished significantly.  A low, unobtrusive whine or chime coming from an electric vehicle in the area is unlikely to drown out other sounds, or make pedestrians much more aware of its presence – especially as they become more common and the sound is present everywhere.

There is obviously a safety trade-off here if plug-in cars are truly silent, but perhaps it would be better to expect more vigilance (and safety precautions) on the part of pedestrians over a future of whirling and beeping cars all over the world?

Back to the video…

What caught our attention immediately is that the woman is jaywalking, which is illegal is the U.S. and probably elsewhere in the world too (but supposedly not in the UK where this video is filmed).  Jaywalking is dangerous, which is why there are crosswalks and lights for pedestrians to cross the street.

More important than sound is that the driver of a vehicle and pedestrians are aware of surroundings, and obey all traffic and pedestrian laws.

Our hope is that governments and lawmakers don’t take away our silence just because a few drivers and pedestrian were careless.  Auto manufacturers think that this noise-emitting system for EVs is rather absurd too.

Call us crazy, but we think that it’s all politics.

This is needless to say & has nothing to do with it being an EV or not...

This is needless to say & has nothing to do with it being an EV or not…

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35 Comments on "Guide Dogs Releases Video On Dangers Of Quiet Cars"

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The solution is to have a system that emits a sound at 15-20 mph or less. Above 15-20 mph, the tire noise will be sufficient.

Its called the stereo rofl

Indeed, so I find it odd that the vehicle so prominently displayed in the video, a Nissan Leaf, happens to be one of the few which already does exactly that.

You are over 10 times more likely to die from urban pollution in the uk than being hit by a car or die in another type of road accident. If you want to turn up the volume of the pinger in the front of then leaf go for it but I am yet to see a statistic that shows hybrid or ev’s collide with more pedestrians than “normal” cars.

I’ll make a deal, l’ll pay to have something fitted to my leaf that sounds like an engine to reduce the unquantified risk of running over a pedestrian if people with engines in their cars have a device fitted that cuts the engine when they drive within 500 m of an unborn child or someone with a heart compliant.

I’ve snuck up on pedestrians in parking garages. Seems like EVs should be able to combine sound with some of the new self-driving type technology to better warn pedestrians that a vehicle is coming.

Do you not play music in your car?

Lean on the horn!

. . . or provide a more courteous and less startling, toot-toot which I often sound when approaching a bicycle in the street.

Jaywalking is not illegal in Sweden (or the rest of Scandinavia), however it is illegal to walk on the freeways.

No one hears my almost 15 year old Honda Civic either, it’s not quiet cars that are the problem, it’s the fact you can’t hear anything over some of the much louder ones. No one is going to hear any car normal when there is a Harley Davidson within 500 metres.


You are totally right the problem are not the silent cars, but the fact that we are used to the (fact) that cars have to be loud.

The more used we get to silent cars, the more precaution will we take when crossing the street. (Same applies to bicycles)

Silent cars/busses/trucks/trains are great because they increase life quality in urban areas!

I was surprised at how loud the HVAC/cooling fans (when activated) actually are in our Volt when heard from outside the car. In fact, I would bet that the alert sound would be much lower in decibal then the HVAC/cooling fans are in our Volt. Both sounds are not really noticed from inside the cars. There is NO way to enforce high noise levels for vehicles, even though that would make for a nicer environment JMO. J walking is just not a good idea for anyone. I have 8 permanent screws & steel plate above my right ankle thanks to a Suburban running-over me in the middle of a cross-walk, when the driver decided not to stop behind the white cross-walk line first before wanting to make a right turn. I didn’t hear him until he was hitting me because of the loud MAC truck in the previous lane. I was crossing at the right time and with my white cane. There is no perfect solution for mobility for Blind people but a low decibel, specific frequency sound, no louder then some sounds already emitted by many vehicles, would be helpful. Honestly, I think the problem is that people think… Read more »

The HVAC on my LEAF is also pretty noisy from the outside. I think that it would be as loud as any modern ICE (which is pretty quiet at low speeds).

I really do think this is just another case of a minority group complaining for the sake of it. My wife is blind in one eye so I’m not unsympathetic but we don’t need these kind of PSA style videos.

We should all be able to agree that quieter cars that emit less pollution are a good thing. It’s not like a low speed audio warning should be exactly difficult to standardize and implement. There’s supposed to be on on my LEAF but personally I can’t hear it.


You can’t hear my V6 car over the performance modified 4cyl cars.

Pedestrians need to take responsibilty for their actions. don’t blame cars for your- jay walking,not making eye contact after looking both directions at a uncontolled intersection, crossing an intersection when the dont walk symble is active etc…

I live buy a busy intersection and i dont want to go from loud exhaust to loud beeping cars…

A law against “jaywalking” seems pretty ridiculous. It’s legal in almost every country in the world, as it should be.

But idiots doing it at multi-lane strets and/or in heavy traffic (where better options are easily available) should be awarded a Darwin Award combined with a grill impression along the body.

In the 70’s we had TV public service announcements (PSA commercials) that would educate and remind pedestrians when and where to cross a street.
Time for a 21st Century version.


Roads are for cars.

Oh man. Where to start? okay: I think an apology is in order: people with disabilities don’t need, want, or deserve sympathy, from anyone else just for existing, but I think it’s not too presumptuous of me to say that like every one else they would really prefer not being hit by cars. Hey cars are cool and cars can be fun and cars can be useful,and ev’s are all round better and less damaging to the planet than ice cars to boo,t but none of that does nothing to change the fact that, driving is a serious responsibility and a privilege, never a right. It’s a privilege that non drivers subsidize because they pay taxes that fund roads etc. So no, streets are not for cars, streets are for PEOPLE, some of whom have the privilege of using cars. The whole idea of “jaywalking” was cooked up by the automobile lobby in the 1920’s as a way to quell the backlash after tens of thousands of people, many of them children, were killed by cars — the strategy was to blame the victim, and, sadly, it worked brilliantly. I’d like to think that we are more civilized now. The… Read more »

Very well said JP. My vote of +100.

Just a few more years and autonomous driving will end the argument and we can enjoy the peace and quite of an EV.

“It’s a privilege that non drivers subsidize because they pay taxes that fund roads etc. So no, streets are not for cars, streets are for PEOPLE”

Objectively, both of these statements are wrong.

Regarding the first statement, pays taxes, and much or most road funds come from gas taxes, which drivers pay for. Also, roads are not just for individuals driving, they are also used for commerce. Without roads, there wouldn’t be food in grocery stores for pedestrians to eat. So if your plan is to forage for nuts and berries, then you’d be all right without roads.

Regarding your second statement, streets are actually built for cars. The fact is that roads are design specifically for cars (and trucks). The width, thickness, destinations, lines and signage, etc, are all specifically for cars. If they weren’t built for cars, they would be called sidewalks.

If there is to be a noise standard, it needs to be meaningful and applied to ALL cars regardless of drivetrain. Gas cars can be very quiet these days too. First step would be to determine what the goal is. I don’t think anybody is trying to stop pedestrians from being hit on highways, and the risk of serious injury from cars going under 10 miles an hour is very low. (Even if you are hit by a car going 10 mph, you are very likely to survive uninjured). For the sake of discussion, I’ll toss out a goal of reducing accidents that occur on roads with traffic speeds between 25-45 mph. Too much slower, and the accident risk goes down sharply. Too much faster and people need to keep off of highways, and shouldn’t expect to cross highways by ear alone. Again for sake of discussion, I’ll choose a good test speed for noise might be 35 mph. Now determine how much noise should a car make at 35 mph, and at what distance and from what direction should that noise be measured? The test should be measured as a car is driving towards a decibel meter. Sound travels… Read more »

I had a thought about this and have decided that this is probably an issue for sighted people but unlikely to be an issue for the blind. I am trying not to be flippent about this but the dog can see and is unlikely to take a risk, it will look. A human will focus on getting to the bus and take the risk. Pherhaps there are partially sighted who this might be an issue for but I can’t imagine they wouldn’t hear a car if they were listening for it, they are not that quiet at speeds where the driver couldn’t brake or avoid pedestrians.

What is really lacking here is some facts, do quiet cars like hybrids hit more people than regular cars

I thought guide dogs was aware of silent cars as well as silent bicycles and silent joggers etc.

Silent joger can hardly go above 10km/h.
Silent bicycler can hardly go above 20km/h (on paved route for pedestrians).
Silent car can go above 40km/h easily without much sound.

Jogger will hurt You. Bicycle will hurt You more. Car can kill You.

“Silent bicycler can hardly go above 20km/h (on paved route for pedestrians).”

Huh, a close friend of my sister’s in medical school was hit by a bicycle, was in coma, and had permanent brain damage. She had to drop out of medical school. Not dangerous?

Actually above 20mph the main noise from any car is tire noise. So really quiet cars are only dangerous up to that speed and most people survive if hit at 20mph or less.

Many cyclists ride over 30 kph on paved pedestrian routes.

Just do not use word “correlation” You do not use one data point for it. Never.

Second thing is that You seam to have problem with sound as such.

But instead of fighting root cause (annoyingness of sound).

You want to remove that altogether.

Low speed sound do not have to be annoying nor loud enough to reach car cabin.

In fact sound audible only to dogs may also be some good addition.

One not so long and normal for pedestrians. Other for dogs.

Also I have no blody idea why we ended up with “backward motion” alarm sound for forward motion.

Argue with Car OEMs and lawmakers quality of sound, not with people whose live & health depend on sound.

What I find amazing is the fact, that she walks between 2 closely parked cars to cross the street. One of the 1st things I was taught and taught my children is to “See and be seen” when crossing a street. Nobody should cross the street between cars. It is irresponsible – give car drivers a chance to see people who want to cross a street.

she’s supposed to be blind. Does nobody commenting here know what a guide dog is?

Yet another good thing about the Kia Soul EV that I own

It emits an ‘engine sound’ at speeds under 12 mph… and when it is backing up in reverse

Adding sound to cars is stupid. The only “danger” of quiet cars is that they are quieter than other cars. If you took any modern ICE car back in time 50 years, it would have been considered a dangerously quiet car by the same people throwing fits about EVs today. The solution isn’t to make quiet cars nosier, it’s to make noisier cars quieter. Once all cars as as quiet as EVs, then everybody will be safer because not only will be able to hear the cars coming, but you can also hear other dangers such as cyclists. Oh, and we’ll all be less a little less stressed out. On the other hand, if we add noise makers to all quiet cars, then we’ll be stuck at that level of noise indefinitely. What a foolish idea. Anybody who thinks that quiet cars should have noise makers should stick their face behind the muffler on a Harley, they’ll feel SO safe.

You don’t change millions of cars to satisfy the needs of the miniscule percentage of blind pedestrians. You directly help the blind pedestrians. Reminds me of the city (I forget which) that spent tens of millions of dollars to add wheelchair lifts to their public transit fleet, when it would have cost a small fraction of that amount to buy them unlimited taxi fares for life.

It seems to me that active Collision Avoidance systems that detect people crossing streets and avoid accidents would be a much more effective solution than making noise in the hopes that blind people will scatter off the road when cars approach.

Really, really serious about solving the problem, forever with zero accidents? Have blind people carry smart phones with Active Collision Avoidance systems, and have them communicate with tied in systems in cars. Similar to how airplanes have Active Collision Avoidance that speak to each other automatically. Car drivers get audio warning and a visual location on their GPS, blind people get an audio warning and/or vibration warning when heading into oncoming traffic.