Visually impaired community concerned about hybrid vehicles

Visually impaired community concerned about hybrid vehicles
(Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The City of Savannah is moving forward with its plan to acquire more electric vehicles.  However, one group of Savannahians are concerned for their safety because the cars are so quiet.

The visually impaired and blind community is concerned that the energy efficient cars may be too quiet for them to hear.

Pamela Oglesby was born with a visual impairment and she's ready to make a lot of noise about the City of Savannah getting quiet hybrid cars.

"It takes longer to pick up that lighter swish than it does to hear that engine coming," Oglesby said.

Electric vehicles make as much noise as a golf cart and Oglesby says the quiet vehicles put her and other visually impaired people's safety at risk.

"My emotions kicked in, because all I'm thinking is My God I'm going to walk out here one day, not hear a car, and get hit," Oglesby said.

The City of Savannah's hybrid vehicle pilot program only involved one electric car. Sean Brandon is the City of Savannah's director of Mobility & Communications.  He says the city plans to acquire more hybrid vehicles in the future and adds sound is a factor.

"It is pretty quiet, so it's a balancing act. You want a quiet vehicle, but one that is still safe for the visually impaired," Brandon said.

Brandon is also open to working with Savannah's visually impaired before quieter hybrid vehicles hit the road.

"I think we would need to first bring the community in and see what they think of it. I think we need to do that before making any decision about noise or any addition of noise," Brandon said.

Oglesby says she looks forward to working with the city to hear the electric vehicles and if she likes it, "I'll say atta boy. And if it's not, then I'm going to say we've got to go back to the drawing board. Someone's going to have to do something about this," Oglesby said.

The city also wants to make clear they will not convert the entire fleet to electric cars, just a few cars at a time.

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