Blind and visually impaired pedestrians are being put at risk by the growing number of hybrid and electric vehicles on our roads, according to new research from Monash University and Vision Australia. Electric vehicles are projected to increase to more than 500 million globally by 2040.
The researchers are calling for Australia to harmonize its vehicle safety standards with Europe, and ensure an ‘Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System’ is fitted to all hybrid and electric vehicles.
“The AVAS would require an electric or hybrid vehicle to make a noise when traveling up to and include 20km/h, while traveling forward or in reverse,” said Karen Knight, Vision Australia general manager. “Regulatory authorities in the US and Europe moved quickly with regulations being passed concerning minimum noise standards for electric and hybrid vehicles when traveling at low speed and we believe now is the time for Australia to follow suit.”
“While there are many advantages of electric cars, the quiet engines make it incredibly difficult to hear them coming especially when they’re traveling at low speeds,” said Karen Knight. “This can be a real problem in car parks and near driveways, and is a major concern for distracted pedestrians, children, the elderly and people who are blind or have low vision.”
According to the research, the majority of incidents involving hybrid vehicles happen in areas where pedestrians are meant to have right of way, like crosswalks and footpaths. One of the people surveyed has lost three canes to near-accidents with cars and bikes with “near-silent engines”.