Do We Need Louder EVs? Well, the Safety of the Visually Impaired Depends On It

Most new models generate artificial sound to alert their surroundings but that's not enough.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Electric vehicles are quiet because they simply lack the noise-making traditional combustion engines as they are powered by batteries and electric motors. However, this silence is not considered good for traffic and road safety as it can lead to accidents. 

The absence of a vehicular sound in EVs poses a serious potential risk of collisions with cyclists, pedestrians, and other vehicles on the road. This is because the latter can not hear the EVs approaching and are therefore more likely to collide with them. Now, charities for the blind and visually impaired are also claiming that the lack of noise in EVs is endangering them, according to the BBC.

RNIB Cymru and Guide Dogs Cymru said that despite a noise-emitting device being mandatory for all UK-registered electric vehicles since July, some drivers simply turn it off resulting in very quiet rides. The UK Department for Transport also added that from September 2023, manufacturers would be prevented from installing a system that allows drivers to switch off the acoustic vehicle alert system (ACAS). 

"All new electric and hybrid electric vehicles being registered from 1 September 2023 must comply with this requirement," it said.

Nick Lancaster, who is visually impaired and lives in Brecon, Powys, said the low noise level of EVs is becoming a real threat to him. "I have near-misses with electric cars quite often, up to a couple of times a week because I can't hear them," he told the BBC.

Indeed, most electric vehicle manufacturers include sound emitters in their vehicles as standard and, in most countries, these are also required by law in order to increase road safety.

Andrea Gordon, who is blind and works as an engagement officer for Guide Dogs Cymru, emphasized the need for a vehicular sound.

"Please, we need that sound. Imagine how it would be for you if you were trying to cross the road wearing a blindfold and then perhaps you'll think again," she told the BBC.

The charities highlight an important factor for the blind and visually impaired that should not be ignored. 

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