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Electric Cars A Danger To The Blind, Say Charities

September 20, 2021

Blind and visually impaired people say quiet hybrid and electric vehicles are putting their lives in danger.

RNIB Cymru and Guide Dogs Cymru said the quiet vehicles must be made louder.

They said despite a noise-emitting device being mandatory for all UK-registered electric vehicles since July, some drivers switched it off.

The Department for Transport said from September 2023 manufacturers would be prevented from installing an acoustic vehicle alert systems pause switch.

The Avas system makes a noise similar to a conventional engine when reversing or travelling below 12mph (19km/h).

Older vehicles do not have a sound system built in.

More electric vehicles were registered than diesel cars for the second month in a row in July, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Nick Lancaster, who is visually impaired and lives in Brecon, Powys, said he had noticed a huge increase in electric and hybrid vehicles.

“I have near-misses with electric cars quite often, up to a couple of times a week because I can’t hear them,” he said.

He fears he would have been hurt of it were not for his guide dog Lloyd.

“Lloyd has stepped in front of me to prevent me from crossing because he’s seen a car moving that I haven’t heard,” he said.

“It shakes me because I feel I was very close to having an accident and could’ve been seriously hurt.”

Andrea Gordon, who is blind and works as an engagement officer for Guide Dogs Cymru, said more awareness was needed.

“Please, we need that sound. Imagine how it would be for you if you were trying to cross the road wearing a blindfold and then perhaps you’ll think again,” she said.

The UK government’s Department for Transport (DfT) said regulations were changing to “prevent manufacturers from installing a pause switch that allows drivers to temporarily turn the system off”.

“All new electric and hybrid electric vehicles being registered from 1 September 2023 must comply with this requirement,” it said.

But RNIB Cymru and Guide Dogs Cymru want changes to come in sooner and want older vehicles to be fitted with a sound system.

The DfT said manufacturers needed time to implement the changes in their designs.

Director of RNIB Cymru Ansley Workman said: “We’re really concerned it’s going to take another two years to put that commitment in place because during that time people with sight loss are in danger… we know of many incidents of people who have walked out into the road and been hit by oncoming cars because they can’t see them.”

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