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Safety fears amid government spending on quiet vehicles

Safety fears amid government spending on quiet vehicles

Guide Dogs

3 min read Partner content

The charity Guide Dogs warns of the increased risk of harm to pedestrians presented by electric vehicles and calls upon the Government to take action.

Today, the Government has announced £11 million of funding for technological innovation in electric and hybrid vehicles. However, none of this money has been allocated to address the threat that these quiet vehicles pose to pedestrians who are blind or partially sighted.

Everyone knows that the Green Cross Code says to ‘Stop, look and listen’ before crossing the road, and the sound of an engine is central to the safety of pedestrians. Research has shown that hybrid and electric vehicles, which are much harder to hear, are 25% more likely to be involved in a collision causing injury to a pedestrian than a conventional vehicle. This is an issue for all pedestrians, and especially people with sight loss - Guide Dogs’ campaign is supported by disability groups, older people’s organisations, horse-riding and pedestrian groups, as well as the UK’s leading road safety organisations including RoSPA, RAC Foundation, Brake and the AA.

The government funding, which is specifically for technological innovations, is part of a £500 million package which will be aimed at boosting uptake of electric and hybrid vehicles. The £11 million will be provided to 50 organisations, ranging from small businesses to major universities, working together on 15 research and development projects. This is part of the Government’s ambition  to place the UK as a world leader in regards to low emission vehicles. 

Guide Dogs is calling on the Government to lead the way in regards to road safety as well and asking that all quiet vehicles be made safe through the fitting of an artificial sound generator. An Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS) is an important safety feature and technological innovation in electric vehicles which would ensure all cars are made audibly detectible. It is a simple speaker system which is estimated to cost around £21 per vehicle. Other countries are leading the way here, with the US already having passed a law for all quiet vehicles to be fitted with AVAS.

James White, campaigns manager at Guide Dogs said “It is very disappointing that the Government are spending £11 million specifically on technological innovation of quiet vehicles without considering funding for artificial sound generators, which are an affordable way of ensuring these vehicles are audible and safe.

These safety concerns have been acknowledged by the European Union, which has said that new quiet vehicles must fit artificial sound generators from 2021. Today's figures show that the number of quiet vehicles on our roads is increasing, which means the risk to pedestrians who have sight loss is more prevalent as well.”

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