Greensboro, NC -- It's easy to understand the appeal of a hybrid car. Gas prices are high, more people are going green and the cars themselves are becoming more stylish.
But a danger lurks inside them if they're involved in a crash. That's not to say hybrids are unsafe -- they hold up just as well as other cars in crashes.
It's what happens after the impact that could be dangerous for first responders. There are hundreds of volts of electricity flowing through cables built into hybrids. If a firefighter cuts one with the Jaws of Life, they could be shocked -- or worse.
Hybrids are silent, so if one's still turned on after a wreck it could move. And Greensboro firefighter Nicholas Holder said Thursday the biggest risk he fears is the airbags deploying if the power isn't cut.
This isn't about making anyone scared of hybrids. Holder says he feels just as safe around them as he does any other car.
"I used to be very afraid of a hybrid," he said. "They always have told us, 'Stay away from the orange cables. ... anything orange is high voltage.' But now, I'm not as scared of what could happen."
But he still likes a new proposal from SAE International, which is an influential group of automotive engineers. It's now encouraging car companies to make hybrid logos on cars bigger, so that they're visible from 50 feet away. And SAE wants them on the sides and the backs of all hybrid cars so first responders know what they're dealing with.
"The whole goal for me is to go home at night," Holder said. "And the more information I have and more training that I have, that's going to help me go home."
Bigger logos or not, Greensboro firefighters now disable the regular battery on every car in a crash -- hybrid or not. Doing that will tell a hybrid's high-voltage system to shut down, which will keep every first responder safe. Holder says he hasn't heard of any first responder being hurt or killed during a mishap with a hybrid.
When it comes to training, the Greensboro Fire Department just sent some of its rescuers to training dedicated specifically to crashes involving hybrids. That has Holder confident they'll be able to safely help any of us in an emergency.
Hybridcars.com lists about 40 different gas/electric models for sale in the United States. This year, drivers will buy around 400,000 new hybrids.
WFMY News 2