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New electric vehicle noise law fails to tackle ‘silent killers’, says Brigade

A law that forces new electric vehicles to have a noise-emitting device does not go far enough in ensuring safety for vulnerable road users.

Electric and hybrid vehicles will now have systems to produce a sound when they are reversing or driving below 12mph, providing greater confidence to vulnerable road users

The EU rule, which came into force yesterday (1 July 2019), requires a car to emit noise when reversing or travelling below 12mph. This means that Acoustic Vehicle Alert Systems (AVAS) will need to be installed in new models of hybrid and electric cars registered after 1 September 2019 – and all new hybrid and electric vehicles registered after September 2021.

Michael Ellis, Roads Minister, said: “The Government wants the benefits of green transport to be felt by everyone, and understands the concerns of the visually impaired about the possible hazards posed by quiet electric vehicles. This new requirement will give pedestrians added confidence when crossing the road.”

However, the law does not tackle existing electric vehicles, with Chris Hanson-Abbott of road safety device manufacturer Brigade Electronics branding it therefore as a “failure and a missed opportunity to protect pedestrians”.

According to research by Guide Dogs for the Blind, electric cars are about 40% more likely to hit a pedestrian than a petrol or diesel vehicle. And the average person struggles to hear electric and hybrid cars approach at speeds of up to 20kph (12.5mph).

Hanson-Abbott added: “Dangerously quiet electric and hybrid cars will still be on British streets putting vulnerable pedestrians – particularly kids and people who are blind or partially-sighted – in danger,” he said.

“The Government must step in and force drivers of existing electric vehicles to install noise-generating technology.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.