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Researchers at the University of Windsor are testing a new type of siren using low-frequency tones to help drivers feel police cars approaching. ((CBC/Tom Taylor))

Researchers in Windsor, Ont., are hoping a new type of siren will help alert drivers to approaching police cars, making intersection crashes less likely.

The University of Windsor and Windsor Police are working to develop a siren that motorists will not only hear but feel.

The new siren, called a rumbler, emits low-frequency sounds in a rapid pulsing signal while cruiser lights also flash.

"Drivers don't hear sirens as well as they used to because the sound packages on new cars are so much better now," said lead researcher, Colin Novak, from the university's Noise, Vibration and Harshness Sound Quality Research Group.

The research lab, in the school's automotive engineering department, will experiment on a 2000 Ford Crown Victoria cruiser donated by the police.

"The Windsor Police Force alone had lost nine cars [in crashes] this past year," said Novak.

"We don't know if it was because of an inability of people to hear the siren. But we do know that it can be a contributing factor across the whole country, so that's the type of thing we're trying to prevent."

Danish firm donates simulator

The sound lab will use a noise, vibration and harshness simulator, recently donated by the Danish firm Bruel & Kjaer, to test the new siren. The simulator has three wide screen monitors, a steering wheel and foot pedals.

The driver can select a car and drive it through different courses, passing noises from as many as 100 different sources.

The $250,000 simulator is the first of its kind at a North American university.

Windsor Police also donated a second cruiser, a new Ford Crown Victoria, in hopes the university can find ways to reduce emissions while the cruiser idles and yet still find a way to power all the on-board electronics that officers need.