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Guide Dogs warns quiet vehicles 25% more likely to hit pedestrians

12 Sep 2013

Guide Dogs has revealed startling figures which show that as numbers of quiet electric and hybrid vehicles increase, pedestrian safety is at risk.

A study into the safety of quiet hybrid and electric vehicles by passenger transport specialists, the TAS Partnership, has shown that these vehicles are more likely to be involved in a collision resulting in injury to a pedestrian than conventional vehicles.

The findings, of serious concern for blind and partially sighted people, show quiet vehicles were involved in 25% more collisions between 2010 and 2012 compared to the vehicle population as a whole.

Only last week, the UK Government committed to promoting the ultra-low-emission vehicle industry through subsidies. However, the Government has given no indication as to how it intends to make these vehicles safe for road users. Guide Dogs' Safe and Sound campaign calls for these vehicles to be made audible through the installation of artificial engine sound generators.

Guide dog owner, Katherine Haslam explains the importance of sound: "I rely on my hearing every day when I go out onto the street, the sounds are there as warnings to me to be careful.

"I’ve had several near misses in the past with quiet cars. I had asked my guide dog to move forward as I’d heard no traffic coming and she then basically stopped. Thankfully, she had actually seen the car coming but I just felt the woosh of an electric car push past us. We were very close to being seriously injured or worse.

"Crossing the road for me at any time is difficult. But if there is more electric and hybrid cars on the road me going out would become a nightmare."

The Quiet Vehicles report, concludes "pedestrians and other road users have always relied on vehicle noise to gauge proximity and speed of nearby traffic. If vehicle noise is reduced, this puts blind and partially sighted road users especially at a disadvantage."

James White, Guide Dogs' Campaigns Manager, said: "We strive to give people who are blind and partially sighted the confidence to get out and about alone and the research findings clearly inhibit this effort. This isn't just about physical injury, a near miss with a quiet vehicle can be enough to severely hamper a blind or partially sighted person’s confidence.

"As the numbers of these vehicles on our roads increase, this report shows the need for urgent action to be taken to consider their safety implications."

There is currently scope to make the fitting of artificial engine noise on quiet vehicles mandatory in a regulation being considered in Europe. Next week, there is a crucial vote which could determine how soon this safety feature would have to be installed in all new quiet vehicles across Europe. Guide Dogs requests that this regulation is implemented as soon as possible. You can support our campaign by writing to your MP.

For more information about Guide Dogs, its Safe and Sound campaign or the TAS Partnership’s research, contact Annabel Williams on 0118 983 0183 or email Annabel.williams@guidedogs.org.uk


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Electric Vehicle Drawing

Hybrid and electric vehicles are so quiet that pedestrians may only hear them when they are just one second from impact. Help make roads safer for blind and partially sighted pedestrians by supporting our safe and sound campaign.