Love the plate! Mine is DRBLUD, because I am a technical writer for an international company, and the guys in the factory complain about the amount of red ink I put on manuscripts, claiming their manuals bleed to death. Thus, they call me Doctor Blood (and probably a few other things less polite!)
Yes, it is against the driving regulations to coast down-hill in "N" along with never exceeding the posted speed limit and always coming to a complete stop for a right-on-red. In this case, I wanted to find out how much the speed would change coasting down this hill and I took precautions to make sure there would be no risk to anyone.. That steep downgrade at Bell Mountain is about 100 ft. over about 1,000 ft and speed builds up rapidly. FYI, functionally use of "N" is the same as holding the clutch in a manual transmission as the mechanical gears never disengage.
I live in South Huntsville to the west of Haysland Square and work off Bradford Drive just east of the overpass at Research Blvd. If you see a black, sedan Prius with a license plate "C52MPG" that is me.
It's been a while since I got my license, so I had to look this one up. Page 72 of the driver's license manual indicates that it is illegal to coast downhill in neutral. Again, I suggest that the situation (the Huntsville accident, and by the way, Bob, we must be neighbors, as I am next door in Madison) is still not a Prius problem but a driver issue. I hear they are pretty good cars. Unfortunately, any car can be driven irresponsively or dangerously. I'd like to see more of the investigative issues directed toward bad drivers instead of blaming the vehicles.
I fuel my 2003 Prius at the Shell station at Hobbs Road and the Parkway in Huntsville. So on Monday I took the fatal route. I crested the hill at 35 mph and shifted the car into "N". By the time I reached the fatal accident intersection, my Prius was doing 50 mph. If you get a chance, see if you can replicate the experiment, using a shift into "N" upon cresting the hill to see exactly what the gravity assist does.
Understand that I am a fan of "Johnny Cab" and the cars in "The Sleeper." I have met one too many self-appointed car 'enthusiasts' to believe that ordinary street driving isn't a task that could and in many cases, should be automated. For me, automating the driving would give 20 minutes each way in the morning and evening to read my technical journals and find entertainment on my commute. Let the car sensors and software deal with the . . . wonderful examples of professional driving (and pedestrian skills) we meet on the streets every day.
BTW, I use Google News to find articles involving "prius accident" and "prius crash." Whether or not there is any bias in the newspaper reports, I'm only interested in the details. I had looked at all Prius fatal accidents in the FARS between 2001-07 only to be frustrated by the absence of details. For example, a Kansas accident that involved 50 vehicles including a Prius. How did that happen?
My interest in Prius accidents means I am not seeing the Prius-sized sedans but I really don't care about them. This is not a compare and contrast study but a 'heads up' since I am so likely to be driving a Prius every day. There is an element of self-preservation involved.
I have a special interest in this subject and anytime there is lead to any report about the Prius and pedestrians, I am interested, regardless of language. In response to an e-mail request, Charles Murray provided these links:
It has been 40 years since I studied Japanese but when I use Google to help in the translation, the graphs suggests the Japanese are not seeing a 'smoking gun'. However, I am prepared to have the last, PDF article professionally translated just to make sure I have not misunderstood the graphs.
I'll have to stick to my guns on this one. I believe the reports are skewed to lead the reader to an incorrect and emotional conclusion.
In reading the accident reports listed in the report, I see that the 7/7/11 accident that occurred in Huntsville, Alabama involving a Prius indicates there was a fatality. Other information indicates that the driver of the Prius lost control, hit the curb, and went airborne, shearing the top off the Honda. Having lived in the Huntsville area for over 50 years, I can say I know the stretch of road and this is neither a Prius problem nor a roadway issue. Someone was driving irresponsively.
A jaywalker was run over. That happens whether the car is electric or not. It is NOT a Prius problem. It is why jaywalking is not only illegal but just a bad idea.
A man with an unknown medical condition died after crashing into several cars before hitting a light police. Driver problem, not Prius. Also notice that the Prius is the only of the "several other cars" that is identified by name or model. Why is that?
In another example, a boy rode his bicycle out of a driveway without stopping. (Evidently without looking, also.) That's a good way to get run over by a gasoline or diesel vehicle, too. He was not wearing a helmet. This, again, is not a Prius problem. Maybe it is easier to blame the vehicle than to take responsibity for failing to teach your kids the rules of safety for riding bicycles.
Don't take me wrong. I am a kind-hearted fellow who is aware that every life is precious and that we should all do what we can to preserve it, whether it involves technology, invention, or education. But, I think these Prius reports are among the attempts to move people by fear rather than facts. It's like the siren paradox, where the city puts sirens on their firetrucks but then throttles back the soound so they don't make so much noise. Consequently, I generally see t he flashing lights before I hear the siren. To me, it should be the other way around.
For the record, I do not own and never have owned a Prius. Nothing against them, just don't have one. The closest I have come to one is that my girlfriend's sister drives one. One day I'll let her show it off to me.
David, the NHTSA report which is linked to in the article has the data for turning and backing accidents for both hybrid and non-hybrid vehicles. As Bob points out, the sample size for hybrid vehicles is so small that much of the analysis is questionable. However, the sample size for non-hybrid vehicles is much larger, and that data is probably quite reliable.
I disagree that this is much ado about nothing. The statistics may be uncertain at this point, but keep in mind that every statistic is an individual who was injured or killed. That's not something to take likely. However, Bob's argument seems to be that other safety improvements, such as automatic lane following, would prevent a greater number of accidents and should be receiving more attention.
We live in a democracy, and that means that public policy priorities are (or ought to be!) determined by the people - with everything that implies. As we all know, people don't always make decisions based on rigorous analysis of data. People are emotional, and one of the strongest emotions is fear. Although we don't have solid data on deaths and injuries, we do know that many blind people have had scary experiences and near-misses with hybrid and electric vehicles.
To a congressman, a few phone calls from scared constituents count far more than any well-reasoned research paper. This law passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate (which rarely agrees on anything these days!) and nearly unanimously in the House of Representatives. Like it or not, that's democracy in action.
As someone once said, democracy is the worst system, except for all of the others.
Of curiosity, does anyone have (or could point me to) the statistics for turning and backing accidents for non-electric vehicles? Like the others, I see much ado about nothing here, like the report some years ago claiming that pickles were bad for you because everyone who had eaten pickles between 1875 and 1899 was dead or in frail health. I think they like to play their favorite cards and ignore the rest of the deck.
The blind suffer about 5 fatalities each year and easily +25 medical treatment injuries. They probably have another 100 or so non-reported, close calls and knock-downs. I am sympathetic to their plight but sound has led them down a technologically dead end.
I don't mind adding a noise maker but have no illusions about how effective it will be. The natural opposition to S.841 won't form until the Congressionally mandated noise makers show up on the streets. We know this because the Leaf in the UK has already been muted when the neighbors complained.
As for the "Automotive Alliance," the Prius and all hybrids are less than 3% of all vehicle sales yet the funders of the "Automotivie Alliance" have been directly or through their agents anti-hybrid . . . until the recent increase in gas prices and a serious CAFE challenge. But they don't mind if the Prius and other hybrids and EVs 'get a black eye' from this legislation. Former Congressman Dave McCurdy led this effort and has left the "Automotive Alliance." Regardless of where he goes, the shame follows.
As for politicians, the Prius has replaced the 'Volvo' that was used in the 2004, anti-Dean commercial. The Prius has become the new symbol of 'the hippy' and there is a great game in DC called,"Whack a Hippy" (thanks to Rachael Maddow.) But there is a bloody, deadly serious problem, a 'blood on the streets' problem of not only pedestrian but also Prius accidents.
I have spent the last year recording every Prius, fatal accident via Google News because the FARS database is just numbers. By the time we see the numbers, the details of each accident have faded into forgotten police reports filed away . . . somewhere. What I see is a pattern of accidents including lane departures and failure to stop. Not every accident and certainly not every case but a significant portion. But instead of getting a Toyota option for the Prius, their accident avoidance and lane following option, being made available for any Prius, it remains the highest priced, last option after every other silly eye-candy has been put on the car.
In March of 2009, I had to decide on which Prius we would buy but the accident avoidance and lane following option required paying an extra $8,000 to add that $2,000 option. I would easliy have bought it for my wife's Prius and WOULD DO IT TODAY ... if I didn't have to waste, to burn up $8,000 on Toyota crap options that have nothing to do with safety.
Sorry if I seem bitter but I am of the opinion every D*mn Toyota and NHTSA employee should read the Prius accident reports and every year be asked,"What did you do to prevent this?" <GERRRRRR>
Thanks Dave, it is nice to know there are real people who work on facts and data . . . but we have $41,000 of Prius, two of them, sitting in our driveway and I commute in one daily. This is personal.
Bob, thanks for suggesting that people read the NHTSA report. I read it and agree that the sample size is small. Given the number of hybrid incidents in the study (77 total), breaking down the accidents by maneuver didn't seem particularly meaningful. However, the overall number of pedestrian collisions per hybrid vehicle in the study (0.9%, compared to 0.6% for standard powertrain vehicles) does seem to point to a problem. The rate of bicycle collisions was also higher for hybrids (0.6%, compared to 0.3%).
This is not necessarily inconsistent with your data showing fewer overall deaths per vehicle mile - this study is simply looking at the number of collisions with pedestrians and bicycles per vehicle. Hybrid vehicles may well be safer overall.
One of the weaknesses of the NHTSA report, besides the small sample size, is that their data doesn't take the vision status of the pedestrian into account, so they can't show an increased risk to blind people (as opposed to pedestrians in general). They are upfront about admitting this weakness.
I was disappointed to see that the National Federation for the Blind, which was the main force lobbying for the legislation which prompted this rulemaking, also didn't seem have any quantitative data. Their case seems to be based mainly on the subjective experience of blind people.
Based on what I've read, this seems to be a problem which requires further study. The risk has not been well characterized, and requiring hybrid and electric vehicles to make more noise may not be the best solution. However, the legislation has already been passed, with broad bipartisan support. The reason why is clear: blind people and their familes feel strongly about this, automakers prefer legislation to lawsuits, and there is no natural constituency for opposition to this legislation. As a result, politicians could win points by supporting this legislation, with no downside.
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