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 on (I prefer windows down, but again, mom's a pain in the butt, and it was easier to turn on A/C than listen to her groaning about being too hot). Traffic was all stopped for a red light, and I watched an ambulance fly past with lights flashing...and I didn't hear a sound! There's no way they went through an intersection without a siren, but I swear, I didn't hear a thing. I had to crack the window to double check that they indeed had a siren on. I was shocked! Those things are so well sound-proofed, that you cannot hear a siren if you have the radio on and windows closed (I don't think the blower contributed much to noise, unlike in my little, non-luxury car where I have to keep the fan low to hear the radio over the blower). I didn't even have the radio playing loudly at all, unlike many others on the road who probably have far more noise inside their vehicles, like louder music, children squabbling, or whatever. I also recently watched a very near collision between a fire truck and an SUV. The fire truck was coming to the intersection, sirens and lights blazing, blowing their horn as they approached the intersection, and an SUV just kept driving right through the light. Other cars sitting at the intersection tried beeping their horns at the SUV as it showed no sign of braking. I was on the sidewalk and stood back from the corner fully expecting a collision. It was really a narrow miss. After my experience driving an SUV, I really had to wonder if that driver could even hear the sirens. Because of the buildings around the intersection, I know it's hard to see anything coming down the road, so you would have to have reason to stop before the intersection to see anything coming before entering, and the SUV had the green light, so no reason to slow down if they didn't hear the sirens. Anyway, this left me wondering if in an attempt to appease consumer demands for luxury cars that block out the road noise, have the cars become so well sound-proofed that they are unsafe? You need to be able to hear a siren, or a horn beeping, or that loud motorcycle in your blind spot (especially in a vehicle such as an SUV where there are large blind spots). People playing loud music also contribute to this problem in a less sound-proofed car. There are also deaf drivers. In all of these situations, even if you are an attentive driver, once one sense is cut out from detection of your surroundings, this seems to pose a real saftey risk. So, part 1 of this question: do you think this is a real problem? Have any of you experienced the same thing, either with the radio too loud or in a well-soundproofed vehicle that an emergency vehicle whizzed past with lights flashing and you never heard the siren? For part 2 of the question, what is the best way to resolve the problem? We can ask auto manufacturers to no make their cars quite so well sound-proofed, but I can't see them agreeing when there is consumer demand for it, nor does that help in the case of loud radios and deaf drivers. One thought I had, with no idea if such a thing is possible to design and install in a car, is some sort of external detector on a vehicle that would pick up on certain sound frequencies. Most car horns are tuned to the pitch of 'A,' right? Or is that myth? And emergency vehicle sirens seem to have a pretty well-defined pitch range as well that is not too common in the environment (or they could even be equipped with a transmitter at a specific frequency that would operate at an optimum range for drivers to respond to them and that this receiver in the cars would be able to detect - so that you're not picking up on the police car 4 blocks over, just the one approaching your intersection or coming up from behind you). Now, what would this receiver do when it detected sirens from an approaching emergency vehicle? Perhaps something like either turning off the radio, or cutting the volume down to the lowest setting so you can get an auditory cue, whether it's the radio going quiet, or finally being able to hear the siren over it. In addition, perhaps a flashing dashboard light, something to provide a visual cue to those who cannot hear the siren, either because of an overly sound-proofed vehicle, or deafness. Do deaf drivers have any sort of similar equipment already available to provide them with a visual cue of approaching emergency vehicles? At night, the flashing lights on emergency vehicles are easy to notice, but in bright daylight, they just aren't as noticeable, and if the vehicle is approaching from an intersecting street, they may be out of view until too late. Even if it isn't possible to replace the ability to detect all sounds, and it certainly won't replace the need to pay attention to your surroudnings, at least in the situation where there's an emergency vehicle approaching an intersection, it seems something is needed. Of course, unless it is required as an aftermarket installation, which may be impossible depending on what else is included in the same circuit as the radio, this could only be gradually implemented through installation on new vehicles, so is not going to be a quick or immediate solution to anything. Oh, and yes, I'm aware that there are some traffic lights equipped with devices that emergency vehicles can use to change the lights to stop traffic, but given that emergency vehicles sometimes need to make a wide turn, and into the opposing lane to get around stopped vehicles, it may be more useful to have something that alerts the driver that the don't just need to stop for a red light, but really should be getting over to the right and out of the way. In summary, here are the three main questions I've asked: Is this a problem that needs resolving? Is my idea of a receiver that provides an auditory and visual alert to a driver a viable solution to the problem? Is there a better or more easily implemented solution to the problem?