Electric vehicles are a more environmentally friendly alternative to petrol and diesel models. But there are concerns that low-emission cars and vans are too quiet, putting pedestrians at risk — particularly those who are blind or visually impaired.
To tackle this problem, new EU regulations now require all new models of electric and hybrid vehicles to come equipped with a device to emit noise.
Vehicles will have to produce a sound when travelling below 12mph or reversing, as this is when they are are most likely to be near pedestrians. Drivers will be able to temporarily disable it if they want.
The sound produced by the acoustic vehicle alert system (Avas) is similar to that of a conventional engine.
Roads minister Michael Ellis said the Government wanted “the benefits of green transport to be felt by everyone” and understood the concerns of the visually impaired.
“This new requirement will give pedestrians added confidence when crossing the road,” he added.
The rule applies to all new types of quiet four-wheeled electric and hybrid vehicles and came into force on 1 July. From July 2021, all new electric vehicles must have an Avas, not just new models.
According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), the sound made by a vehicle when it is moving is critically important in helping people who cannot see to judge when to step out to cross a road, or through a shared use area.
Under the new regulations, the added sound is required to have a minimum volume of 56 decibels when standing 50 metres from the vehicle.
“So long as this added sound is directional, distinctive and loud enough to be detectable from background cityscape noise, we think this is a good thing,” the charity said.
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