Electric cars need to be noisier, says MP

30 October 2013
By Edd Gent
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Electric vehicles like the BMW i3, due to hit European roads next month, are becoming increasingly popular

Electric vehicles like the BMW i3, due to hit European roads next month, are becoming increasingly popular

Electric and hybrid cars need to be made louder to protect visually-impaired people, an MP and charities have urged.

After pledging millions of pounds in subsidies for the ultra-low emissions market, MP Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) said the Government needs to ensure the vehicles are safe for all road users by making companies fit sound generators to the vehicles to ensure visually-impaired pedestrians are aware of them.

Glindon will lead a Westminster Hall debate today on electronic vehicles and vulnerable road users, a move backed by charities.

Speaking ahead of the debate, she said: "The Government has pledged £800m in subsidies for the ultra-low emissions market so the number of these cars on our roads will increase rapidly.

"If the Government is paying to promote these vehicles, they should first make sure that they are safe for everyone. We need to send a message that sound generators are vital for the safety of all road users, including those who are visually-impaired."

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association agreed that devices creating sound should be fitted by manufacturers to the vehicles, which make considerably less noise than traditional combustion engine vehicles, as a safety feature.

Richard Leaman, the charity's chief executive, said: "We want to help people with sight loss get out and about independently with confidence, but it is very difficult if they can neither see, nor hear traffic coming.

"A sound generator should be standard on all electric and hybrid vehicles. We know there will be more of them on the road in the future and they need to be safe for people with sight loss as well as other vulnerable pedestrians and road users."

RP Fighting Blindness said it was "imperative" action was taken to prevent accidents as quiet cars were making it even harder for people with eye problems such as tunnel vision to cross the road safely.

The charity represents people with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative genetic condition which most often results in loss of peripheral and night-time vision and is one of the most common causes of blindness in children and working age adults.

Chief executive David Head said: "Being able only to see straight ahead is challenging in the extreme, with many fully-sighted people not appreciating how difficult is to do something as simple as crossing the road safely.

"Currently there is no regulation regarding the level of noise electric or hybrid vehicles make, which acts as the warning for many visually-impaired people. For safety reasons, it is imperative that this is addressed.

"We're very pleased this important issue is being debated publicly. Undoubtedly electric and hybrid vehicles are the future of transport, but the safety of pedestrians must be considered as this technology gains popularity."

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