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Silent But Deadly

Silent But Deadly

Over the English Channel at that bastion of frugality and common sense known as the European Parliament they have recently had an actual vote. Yes – that’s right. Amazingly, the members signed off their expenses, poured out of the nightclubs and bars and headed to work to cast their opinions on the noise electric cars should make. They didn’t come up with any viable ideas obviously but all agreed that a new rule was needed. This is likely to come into force by the end of next year.

It is a much belated victory for the various campaign groups who long ago realised that the new quiet cars coming onto the market were a threat to life, particularly at low speeds. The Guide Dogs For The Blind Association have been saying this for years so any legislation is not before time; after all, cyclists have been encouraged to fit and use a bell or warning device for a long time now and even the heftiest biker can’t compete with a tonne or so of car.

The USA and Japan already have laws in place to cover this issue. In Europe it was first thought that an artificial noise should be voluntary – like bikes – but it seems, quite rightly, that this policy needs to be strengthened in law. It makes sense that vulnerable others be protected -the blind and partially sighted who have to be acutely aware of noises, obviously, but also children and pedestrians on speed restricted streets, the elderly and the infirm.

Current statistics show that there are some 2700 electric cars and nearly one hundred and fifty thousand hybrids and plug-ins on UK roads. This number is expected to rapidly double within the next two years or so. Even the biggest of them is virtually silent when running on electric power alone. Research has apparently already shown that a pedestrian is more likely to be struck by an EV than a petrol-powered vehicle.

A couple of years ago some entitled wag in the House of Lords suggested a cow-bell as being appropriate. That’s the sort of blue-sky thinking that our Nation needs, isn’t it? Meanwhile car makers have got to come up with a solution, bearing in mind that the vulnerable need to be able to hear it over background noise and that different people hear at different decibel levels. It has also got to be non-aggravating for the driver. A graduated noise that sounds like a car might be a good idea.

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- who has written 474 posts on Motor Blogger.

Geoff is a freelance writer and photographer.

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