Are Cars Too Sound-Proofed for Drivers to Hear Emergency Vehicles?

In summary, the favorite radio station thread reminded me of an experience while renting an SUV. I got an SUV as a rental vehicle last year for a visit to my sister (it came in handy for hauling around relatives and getting stuff to a park for my nephew's birthday). At one point, I had the radio on softly (my mom hates the car radio on and she was a passenger - that was somewhat fun to finally turn the tables on her, "I'm the driver and if I say the radio stays on, it stays on.") It was summer, the windows were up and the A/C
  • #36
Evo said:
It's also important to hear the siren and KNOW which direction it's coming from.
No, it is not. If you can hear a siren, it is illegal to drive your car anywhere except to the side of the road.
http://www.google.com/search?q=siren+law+"pull+over"+"any+direction"

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Pull over to the right edge of the road, or as near to the right as possible, when you see or hear an emergency vehicle approaching from any direction.
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  • #37
Danger said:
Is there no way to get it into your head that it doesn't matter how much you focus your sound—a deaf person can't hear it!

Okay, where are those folks with the websites full of statistics when you really need them? How many deaf drivers are out there that might benefit from such a device?
 
  • #38
Danger said:
Is there no way to get it into your head that it doesn't matter how much you focus your sound—a deaf person can't hear it!
I don't think deaf people are the topic of this thread. I think it was more about whether cars are too well sound-proofed for drivers to hear emergency vehicles approaching.
 
  • #39
hitssquad said:
No, it is not. If you can hear a siren, it is illegal to drive your car anywhere except to the side of the road.
http://www.google.com/search?q=siren+law+"pull+over"+"any+direction"

--
Pull over to the right edge of the road, or as near to the right as possible, when you see or hear an emergency vehicle approaching from any direction.
--

Without direction, how do you know if it is approaching?
 
  • #40
BicycleTree said:
I don't think deaf people are the topic of this thread. I think it was more about whether cars are too well sound-proofed for drivers to hear emergency vehicles approaching.

It's both; that's why I referred you to the original post a second time. I can't fit everything in the original post into the title of the thread.
 
  • #41
hitssquad said:
No, it is not. If you can hear a siren, it is illegal to drive your car anywhere except to the side of the road.
http://www.google.com/search?q=siren+law+"pull+over"+"any+direction"

--
Pull over to the right edge of the road, or as near to the right as possible, when you see or hear an emergency vehicle approaching from any direction.
--
Well, when you hear it approaching. If you just hear it, you have to know whether it's approaching before you know whether you have to pull over. So locating the sound, visually or aurally, is necessary.
 
  • #42
For the deaf, there is this:
http://www.infinitec.org/totalresource/deaf/sirens.htm
 
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  • #43
hitssquad said:
No, it is not. If you can hear a siren, it is illegal to drive your car anywhere except to the side of the road.
http://www.google.com/search?q=siren+law+"pull+over"+"any+direction"
No, it's important to know which direction it's coming from, that way when some idiot that doesn't realize there's an emergency vehicle about to crash into him until the last second and he veers out of the way to avoid it, I'm already out of the way. I don't know where you live, but people around here don't obey those laws. I have seen emergency vehicles take road shoulders before. I rarely ever see anyone stopping and pulling over to the right. I rarely ever see people even slowing down. But, that's probably because I am the only one that can hear them.

Also, due to police officers being killed recently when they were stopped on the shoulder of the road (in each case some idiot ran off the road onto the shoulder and rear ended the cop car, burning the officers to death, in two separate incidents). It is now illegal here to drive in the lane next to the shoulder where there is an emergency vehicle. Which means we quite often have to pull into the LEFT lane to avoid driving next to an emergency vehicle.
 
  • #44
BicycleTree said:
For the deaf, there is this:
http://www.infinitec.org/totalresource/deaf/sirens.htm

Well, there goes that idea, it's already been done! Yep, that's pretty much what I had in mind for my first idea. It's so hard to come up with an original invention anymore; all the good ideas are already taken. :-p

So, barring that, we can still gripe about sound-proofed cars and drivers who should be able to hear if it weren't for the sound-proofing and/or music blasting. :-p
 
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  • #45
Moonbear said:
So, barring that, we can still gripe about sound-proofed cars and drivers who should be able to hear if it weren't for the sound-proofing and/or music blasting. :-p
Well... since the siren detector already exists, make it mandadory equipment in any vehicle that exceeds a certain level of soundproofing.
 
  • #46
Moonbear said:
Well, there goes that idea, it's already been done! Yep, that's pretty much what I had in mind for my first idea. It's so hard to come up with an original invention anymore; all the good ideas are already taken. :-p

So, barring that, we can still gripe about sound-proofed cars and drivers who should be able to hear if it weren't for the sound-proofing and/or music blasting. :-p
Actually, I believe from that site that the siren detector was designed to detect the sound waves of the siren, not transmissions from the ambulance. This is a big difference: it means that the ambulance doesn't have to install extra equipment to make it work. The effort of installation is by the interested party, namely the deaf person. People who just have soundproof cars do not buy these devices. Publicity could encourage them but would not lead to universal adoption--and buying one of them would be tantamount to admitting your car is a menace, something people are disinclined to do. Forcing non-deaf people to use them by law would be very difficult because you would have to legislate against the car manufacturers, who have clout.

If soundproofed cars are a problem, it's mainly the ambulances' problem. If their ambulances crash because of cars not hearing them, then the most practicable solution is for the ambulances to do something, not the cars.
 
  • #47
BicycleTree said:
If soundproofed cars are a problem, it's mainly the ambulances' problem. If their ambulances crash because of cars not hearing them, then the most practicable solution is for the ambulances to do something, not the cars.
If people can't hear sirens because they are driving a soundproof car, something needs to be done about the cars.

There is a ridiculous commercial on tv right now where this car is surrounded by dozens of candles, a woman in a bathrobe walks to the car, takes off the robe and gets in, like it's some sort of spa treatment. It's a CAR, it's not supposed to be a spa treament, it's not supposed to put you to sleep! AARGGHH!
 
  • #48
Something needs to be done, period. Whether it is done to the cars or to the ambulances depends on which is more expedient. And it is more expedient to do it to the ambulances.
 
  • #49
I scanned the thread quickly and didn't see this mentioned, so please forgive if I missed something. But just now some cities like NY IIRC, are testing emergency vehicle RF signals that control the traffic lights. As a vehicle approaches an intersection, an RF signal is Xmitted by the Emergency vehicle causing the traffic lights to all turn red. This signal could easily be received by all autos within some range, I would think. It could trigger any number of different warning systems in the car or truck; depending on what makes sense.
 
  • #50
Traffic signal preemption

Ivan Seeking said:
But just now some cities like NY IIRC, are testing emergency vehicle RF signals that control the traffic lights.
Traffic signal preemption. $370.00 + shipping, for a single transmitter.
http://www.anytimecom.com/pages/928360/page928360.html?refresh=1112680820419



As a vehicle approaches an intersection, an RF signal is Xmitted by the Emergency vehicle causing the traffic lights to all turn red.
I believe the systems in use now turn the light green (and opposing green lights yellow, then red) for approaching vehicles. (They use infrared transmitters and line-of-sight receivers, so each intersection can detect the direction of emergency vehicle approach.) All-red would seem to help prevent the system from being hacked, though. A pizza delivery driver hacking the system isn't likely to benefit from turning intersections in front of him all-red, while legitimate emergency vehicles are legal to drive through red lights.
 
  • #51
That would prevent the systems from being abused by those pesky pizza delivery guys and street racers everywhere. I think it would be more beneficial to an emergency vehicle if the lights on its side were green. If all the traffic is blocked in front of the ambulance because of a red light then the cars will have no place to move out of the way. They could go into opposing traffic but people still make right turns on red right in front of an ambulance.

Changing the lights red is better than just barging through traffic, but changing them green is more beneficial for the emergency vehicle.
 
  • #52
Huckleberry said:
That would prevent the systems from being abused by those pesky pizza delivery guys and street racers everywhere. I think it would be more beneficial to an emergency vehicle if the lights on its side were green. If all the traffic is blocked in front of the ambulance because of a red light then the cars will have no place to move out of the way. They could go into opposing traffic but people still make right turns on red right in front of an ambulance.

Changing the lights red is better than just barging through traffic, but changing them green is more beneficial for the emergency vehicle.

It's too bad people just don't have enough common sense to know that if the traffic stopped at the light is blocking the emergency vehicle, nobody is going to complain if they go through the light and get out of the way to give room. Though, usually that's just when the emergency vehicle drives down the wrong side of the road (another reason all red helps, so someone on the intersecting road doesn't make a turn into the right lane that the emergency vehicle is driving down the wrong side to get around stopped traffic).

Or, they could just require car manufacturers to test for sounds detected on the interior of the vehicle. If you can't detect a siren at a certain volume from within the vehicle, they should have to remove some of the soundproofing or require a device that detects the siren and alerts the driver. Traffic safety can't be compromised for luxury.
 
  • #53
Well, you know, it does help to have a sense of perspective. Ambulances crashes are infrequent. Ambulances are a few times more dangerous than cars (estimates vary, but about 10x more dangerous per 100,000,000 miles is one estimate from http://www.detnews.com/2003/specialreport/0301/27/a11-68892.htm ) but compared to the number of cars, there are very few ambulances. Hence, very few ambulances crash.
 
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  • #54
BicycleTree said:
Well, you know, it does help to have a sense of perspective. Ambulances crashes are infrequent. Ambulances are a few times more dangerous than cars (estimates vary, but about 10x more dangerous per 100,000,000 miles is one estimate from http://www.detnews.com/2003/specialreport/0301/27/a11-68892.htm ) but compared to the number of cars, there are very few ambulances. Hence, very few ambulances crash.
That may be true, but how many lives are endangered needlessly in ambulance crashes and slowed response time. If a simple device can prevent these hazards then why should it not be used?

I like being able to hear what is going on around my car, especially in traffic. The more my senses can tell me about my environment the more secure I feel.

I prefer the idea of less soundproofed cars, but a simple LED tuned to the frequency that emergency vehicles transmit would be acceptable.
 
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  • #55
BicycleTree said:
Something needs to be done, period. Whether it is done to the cars or to the ambulances depends on which is more expedient. And it is more expedient to do it to the ambulances.
It's not just ambulances. Fire trucks have a worse time of it because of reduced manoeuvrability and tighter clearances, and police cars have the same low-level visibility as regular ones. I've never heard of a tornado siren before, but it seems to me I would like to hear one if it went off in my vicinity.
 
  • #56
Danger said:
It's not just ambulances. Fire trucks have a worse time of it because of reduced manoeuvrability and tighter clearances, and police cars have the same low-level visibility as regular ones. I've never heard of a tornado siren before, but it seems to me I would like to hear one if it went off in my vicinity.

I've heard of several crashes between emergency vehicles and passenger vehicles due to the passenger vehicle not yielding recently in local news. It's not something that used to seem that common, but if recent news reports are any indication, the incidence is on the rise. This is one of those things I'd like to see handled on a preventative level rather than wait until there are deadly accidents before someone takes action, especially if there is technology already available that can address the problem now rather than later, or easy ways to remedy the problem that don't involve any new technology (less soundproofing). In each case where I've heard of such an accident, the report is usually that the driver claims they didn't hear the sirens. I don't know if this is through fault of their own (too loud of radio, just not paying attention, etc), or due to their vehicle, but if it's something that can be remedied, then it should be.

What I haven't gotten a sense of yet is whether overly soundproofed vehicles are a growing problem? Maybe it was restricted to that one make and model year of the SUV I rented and is not the issue in most vehicles or has been remedied since then, or maybe that was just the beginning of a growing problem. Has anyone else experienced this in their own vehicles, or a vehicle they were a passenger in, where it seemed too quiet? Maybe you just don't notice until you see the flashing lights and realize you don't hear the sound?
 
  • #57
Moonbear said:
What I haven't gotten a sense of yet is whether overly soundproofed vehicles are a growing problem? Maybe it was restricted to that one make and model year of the SUV I rented and is not the issue in most vehicles or has been remedied since then, or maybe that was just the beginning of a growing problem.
I don't know much about new vehicles, but one of the Ford truck ads is bragging about it being something like 3db quieter inside than an S-type Mercedes.

Moonbear said:
Has anyone else experienced this in their own vehicles
I have enough trouble keeping snow out of my car, never mind noise.
It is a little difficult to hear some external sounds over the whining in the transfer case and the tire lugs on the pavement and the 455 breathing through an open-element filter, but a siren is definitely noticeable. :biggrin:
 
  • #58
You have to weigh it against the cost of a solution. Just because people are dying is not a reason to fix the problem, if the fix is too much trouble and the people dying are too few. Notice that the USA does not have foreign aid as a high priority. If it did, it would save many additional lives at a pretty low cost per life. So is it worth it to save three or four lives a year (probably a realistic figure, since the number of people dying in ambulance crashes yearly is in the low tens) in a country of 300 million with drawn-out legislation, or are your efforts better spent pushing for foreign aid?
 
  • #59
A review of the Ambulance Crash Log (http://www.emsnetwork.org/artman/publish/ambulance-crashes.shtml) on the EMS Network News (http://www.emsnetwork.org) site is full of daily reports of ambulances and other emergency vehicles involved in crashes while operating Code 3. Over the past decade, several studies have been undertaken to put this issue into perspective. Here are some staggering statistics from this research:

· 12,000 emergency medical vehicle crashes occur each year in the United States and Canada as a result of Code 3 responses[1].
· 60,000 “Wake effect" crashes are caused annually from emergency units confusing and startling other drivers[2].
· Use of Code 3 responses reduces times an average of 43.5 seconds.
· 300 fatal ambulance crashes occurred between 1991 and 2000[3].
· 25% of firefighter fatalities are due to vehicle crashes occurring when the firefighter is either responding to or returning from an emergency incident.
· In the last 10 years, more than 225 firefighters have been killed in the line of duty as a result of a vehicle crash[4].
http://www.emsnetwork.org/artman/publish/article_14314.shtml

Sorry, BT, but the problem is larger than you suggest. Further, any fatality is too much. If a little piece of technology can help prevent deaths without trampling on anyone's rights, then yes, people dying is a reason to fix that problem. Some of us don't put dollar signs on the value of life. I personally can't stand that attitude that we have to wait for deaths to reach some magic number before we do something about it when there is a way to prevent it at our hands.

Interestingly, at the site I linked to, one of the issues raised is that some of the problem might be in responding with lights and sirens, that some drivers hear the sirens and get confused about which way to go and that leads to accidents, as do the high speeds of responding code 3, when it only shaves a few minutes off the response time. These people take on high risk jobs to save the lives of others. I think the least we owe them is to do what we can to make their job a bit safer, especially if vehicles are being designed in a way that may be making the risk greater than it has been historically?
 
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  • #60
Moonbear said:
people dying is a reason to fix that problem. Some of us don't put dollar signs on the value of life.
Bravo! And there seems to be a tendency to overlook the obvious here. So what if only one person gets killed in a particular accident... what about the dozens or hundreds of people who die in the hotel fire that the truck was prevented from getting to? Or the people killed by a sniper because the cops can't reach the scene?
 
  • #61
well, I'm one of those kids who keeps their radio way too loud... But thing is, i can't hear it unless it is... my car has poor sealing around the windows and doors, so once you hit 40, (as you often do out here in the country..) all you hear is the wind. And i mostly travel on highways... so i can't hear anything hardly once i hit 65. heh, so i blast my radio... i guess its less of a problem near street lights... not that i turn my radio down usually just cause I'm approaching a light... and really, there aren't too many places around here with speeds less than 40... so i guess it is still an issue... i can't hear anyways. Radio on or off... but of course, its worse when its on. though, out here in the country, there isn't usually much to hear. i don't think ambulances even use sirens out here...they kinda give a little "whoop" if there's a lot of cars, but never like, a blaring siren. There's basically only one road they use anyways, 202... its not too hard to see one coming behind you, or one coming towards you.

i dunno...

anyways, i have been in some cars that were riddiculously quiet. It feels weird. You can't hear the cars around you or anything. i have to keep the windows down in those cars, or i feel cut off from the world.

i like the idea of a little light on the dashboard. would that really cost very much money? seems like it oughtn't if it was mass produced. our taxes should pay for something useful anyways... just have one put into every car when it gets inspected... no big? i mean, you don't need to install it so its hidden or something, put some big lightbulb on the dash board, everyone'll have one, so no one can complain. and the big luxury companies can start marketing cars that have the light hidden in with your other lights so its not annoying. how about if like, i forget what they're called, i think they;re what you were talking about earlier... but those little white spinny lights on top of traffic lights that alert you to emergency vehichles are coming... well, amblulance triggers those, and then those send some signal to our nifty dashboard protrusions, and all cars, and only cars, in the area know to pull over.

i especially like the idea of them being implemented at inspection... i hate inspections... they're so useless... least then i'd have a reason to go... and ya...
 
  • #62
I also just found something along the lines of what BT suggested, for broadcasting over a range of radio frequencies, for use in Australia.

EMERGALERT improves road safety and creates a clearer road ahead for emergency vehicles when every second counts!
It is the only technology to deliver a warning to all radio stations within selected bands at one time.

Its range of 300 metres to the front and sides of the emergency vehicle alerts general road users of the emergency vehicles presence earlier saving time and lives.

Increased soundproofing of today's vehicles makes it hard to hear a siren at all, let alone from 50 metres away. Vehicle manufacturers promote soundproofing of cars to gain sales.

Studies show that the effectiveness of sirens is severely limited to a maximum penetration of 8 to 12 metres at intersections. This is due to road noise, directional sirens, soundproofing and physical barriers.

Australian crash data and ABS statistics show emergency vehicles in Australia are involved in accidents at a rate of over 1 per day, as well as killing someone every 6 months.

http://www.emergalert.com.au/
 
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  • #63
Moonbear said:
I also just found something along the lines of what BT suggested, for broadcasting over a range of radio frequencies, for use in Australia.
Some scary stats there. I still have a problem with broadcasting to public radio though, since I don't listen to it. Same problem, as you mentioned, with people listening to CD's or who have a DVD movie going for the kids. (I'm not fond of vehicle-mounted movie players either, for the distraction value. And how long before the dip who's doing her nails or reading his stock report while driving decides to mount one on the dash and watch The Matrix on the way to work?)
 
  • #64
This is the most ridiculous thing I have seen in quite some time. I couldn't find any federal laws on front seat mounted video monitors, but I did find this...
http://www.racomobile.com/products_visor.asp

Are people just not concerned about vehicular safety at all?
 
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  • #65
Huckleberry said:
Are people just not concerned about vehicular safety at all?
I see that they cleverly added a line about the driver not being able to see it. How long to disable that little feature, I wonder? Besides, just the sound from an action movie could cause reflexive movements by the driver even if he's trying to ignore it.
 
  • #66
Huckleberry said:
This is the most ridiculous thing I have seen in quite some time. I couldn't find any federal laws on front seat mounted video monitors, but I did find this...
http://www.racomobile.com/products_visor.asp

Are people just not concerned about vehicular safety at all?

Apparently not.

Though, I was thinking about some of the things people have added into vehicles in recent years, and I think people would pay a little extra for something that makes their vehicle safer, as long as it allows them to continue driving their motorized living rooms. Afterall, they will pay extra for headlights that turn themselves on, same for windshield wipers, as long as it leaves a hand free for the remote controlled 12 CD changer/MP3 player/video monitor/cell phone. If it could be mass produced and marketed as a safety feature starting on those luxury cars, right along with the rearview cameras, and automatic headlights, who's even going to notice an extra $100 on a vehicle with a sticker price of $60,000? I'll bet those people who want quiet cars would pay extra for something that let's them keep that quiet car.

Toss in a second frequency or signal on it, and you can send cars two different, both useful sets of information: emergency vehicle moving ahead and emergency vehicle stopped ahead (of course cops sitting with the radar gun catching speeders could turn it off if they are safely to the side of the road). This way, people have time to react appropriately, maybe put the light for emergency vehicle approaching on the right side so people know to pull right and stop, and the one for emergency vehicle stopped to the left so they know to slow and possibly move to the left lane and to slow down. This might make it safer for the stopped emergency vehicles on highways if you know to expect a lot of flashing lights and emergency workers on the road before you get there. Or maybe make one a red light to stop and one a yellow light to slow and proceed with caution. Though, I'm not sure about another red light on the dashboard...might take too long to realize what it means with all the other idiot lights on the dashboards that are already red. Maybe orange would work and octagonal with an arrow pointing right.

I guess I see it as a trade-off. If you're willing to pay for soundproofing, then you can also pay a little more to make it a bit safer.
 
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  • #67
Moonbear said:
Though, I was thinking about some of the things people have added into vehicles in recent years
I just thought of something here. If you're thinking about it primarily being an option on luxury cars, maybe it could be tied into an OnStar or Lojac system. That way part of the infrastructure is already in place.
 
  • #68
Danger said:
I just thought of something here. If you're thinking about it primarily being an option on luxury cars, maybe it could be tied into an OnStar or Lojac system. That way part of the infrastructure is already in place.

Hmm...now that might work, tie it in with OnStar on luxury cars, at least the ones that pretty much come standard with OnStar. Afterall, the luxury cars are the overly sound-proofed ones, and the OnStar owners want their car to talk to them and tell them how to drive. Then, after it's the hottest new thing in luxury cars and everybody wants one, we offer a stripped down version that just operates dashboard lights without the OnStar voice thing that can be installed after-market for older cars or factory-installed on other new cars. This way, we give the luxury car owners the impression they've gotten something special that the other cars don't have (the version tied to OnStar) without having to tell them they are the ones that need it most too, then once they've paid the higher price to get it introduced to the market and to help cover the cost of installing it on the emergency vehicles, we can lower the cost on the mass-produced version and sell it to everyone. We'll be rich! Now, who was going to build this thing?

I still wouldn't be surprised if someone has already invented the thing, since the other ideas we've come up with here are already out there as well.
 

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