A car rumbles down a road with three speech bubbles emitting from it: one with a cheetah roaring, another with a spaceship taking off in space, and another with a goat bleating.

Watch Out for Silent Cars!

This is yet another attempt at trying to assure I - and everyone else - do NOT become roadkill. I don’t know about you, but speaking for myself, that sort of nonsense could ruin a perfectly good day!

Lesson #1: Navigating Traffic

First, a little lesson I nearly learned the hard way. I heard a car coming and took the girls to the side of the road. When the car passed I tried to get back on the road only to discover another car coming. Jeez Louise! Took a year off my life with fright!

Moral of the lesson: Wait before you step back out. The motor of the first car masked the sounds of the second. Take a second to be sure all the traffic has really passed.

Lesson #2: The silent car

And speaking of motor sounds, has anyone had a close encounter of the scary kind with a "silent" car? My husband did. He came home and reported he had almost been run over by an electric car. He only realized he was in danger when he saw the car out of the corner of his eye.

The pros and cons of silent cars

This incident has had me wondering. Hopefully, we will be going more and more in the direction of renewable energy and electric cars. It is simply better for the environment. However, the problem becomes this: no engine sounds increases my chances of becoming roadkill. Good grief!

Traffic sounds and the visually impaired

Dona Sauerburger wrote a paper about traffic sounds and the visually impaired. She reported that we vision-challenged folk, as well as many “normal” people, use traffic sounds to determine the geometry of the street - width, number of lanes, etc -, traffic control and timing, alignment and positioning for crossing - don’t want to go off at an angle! - and avoiding turning vehicles. All these cues became less available to us in 1972 when the Noise Control Act of 1972 was passed and with electric cars, it is conceivable, they could cease to exist.1

Advocating sound for the visually impaired

Fortunately, the Orientation and Mobility Division of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Visually Impaired got to work lobbying, basically, for our lives and ability to travel independently. They pointed out that even a white cane is not a deterrent to many drivers and people were in danger of being run down. Something had to be done to make cars at least a little noisy again!

2020: Not so silent cars

Fast forward to 2020. As of this past September (2020) the United States federal government now requires otherwise quiet cars to make noise. The Cincinnati News reported there is no standard sound being developed, however. Many different manufacturers are getting, shall we say, creative. Some of the sounds are instrumental in nature and others are being modeled on animals. For example, Tesla is using a sound akin to “the bleat of a goat”. Why? No clue. Jaguar apparently has decided to go with a “spacecraft” sound.. I would have thought the yowl of the jungle cat would have been interesting, but then what do I know?2

Whatever auto manufacturers do, they do appear to have our best interest at heart. It is nice to know they have a little investment in our not becoming roadkill. And add to that the entertainment value of all this. Anyone for a 2021 Space Barnyard Symphony? Performing soon on the nation’s byways!

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