Recent research has shown that silent, or quiet, cars (electric and hybrid vehicles) are forty per cent more likely to be in a collision with a pedestrian than conventional cars.
Internationally, RNIB has been supporting our friends in the European Blind Union and World Blind Union to try to make sure effective rules are in place to ensure audible safety alert sounds exist on silent cars. A part of the United Nations, the "UNECE", is in the process of drafting a regulation on the matter. The new UN regulation, which would apply to Europe and therefore the UK, would require sound alert systems to be fitted to quiet cars to warn pedestrians of their presence.
In March 2015, a campaigner from RNIB went to the UN in Geneva, on behalf of the World Blind Union (WBU), to put the case for a strong regulation in order to protect everyone - especially blind and partially sighted pedestrians.
The Chair of the Committee in charge of the matter, Mr Boris Kisulenko, confirmed at that meeting that WBU's concerns would be taken into account when the regulations are finalised. Indeed- that same day we "tweeted"- and the UN "re-tweeted"- his reassurance.
However, a recent draft of the regulation was still not strong enough to effectively protect blind and partially sighted pedestrians. It would continue to allow the driver to use a switch to "pause" the alert sound on an electric vehicle. It also doesn't require the alert sound to be active while a quiet vehicle is stationary. And, perhaps worst of all, we believe that the level of sound in the draft regulation would not be strong enough to be properly audible in a busy street environment.
We will keep working with our international colleagues, as we get down to the last few months of campaigning on this matter. The regulation is due for completion in March 2016.