Safety worries as more ‘silent killer’ electric vans hit Britain’s streets

More and more environmentally-friendly electric vehicles are hitting UK streets but there is a fear that the rise of deadly silent electric vans will lead to deaths on British streets unless drivers adopt vital noise safety tech.

A newly-released report by the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) revealed new registrations of electric vans rose nearly 21 per cent in 2018, and with major UK logistics and retail companies adding electric vehicles to their fleet, the trend looks set to continue.

But dangerously quiet electric and hybrid vehicles put vulnerable pedestrians – particularly kids and the disabled – in danger.

From July all new models will have to emit a noise when travelling at low speed, however the registration only covers new models registered after September 1 and then new registrations after September 2021 – by which time there will be several million potentially lethal electric vehicles on the UK’s roads.  And as Europe’s biggest adopter of online shopping, the number of final-mile deliveries to residential areas has jumped, putting more families at risk.

Red alert over green vehicles

Manufacturers must not wait until the law forces them to make noiseless hybrid and electric vehicles emit life-saving sound, says Chris Hanson-Abbott OBE, of road safety device manufacturer Brigade Electronics. He said: “There is no doubt the adoption of hybrid and electric vans is great news for the environment and UK air quality.

“But the average person struggles to hear electric and hybrid cars approach at speeds of up to 20kmh (12.5mph). Quite simply, they are dangerous.

“Fortunately, there is an aftermarket solution, Brigade’s Quiet Vehicle Sounder, that creates sound and therefore decreases the risk.”

Research by Guide Dogs for the Blind shows electric cars are about 40% more likely to hit a pedestrian than a petrol or diesel vehicle.

Nick Simmons, CEO of Roadpeace, the national charity for road crash victims in the UK, too has expressed concern over the dangers of quiet vehicles. “Roadpeace was founded on the principle of road danger reduction and as such we are strong advocates of tackling danger at source.

“The influx of electric and hybrid vehicles presents a new silent hazard on to our roads of which the majority of our members will not be aware therefore being a significant risk to vulnerable road users. Added to this, the fact that the majority of these vehicles are working in urban environments further heightens the risk.

“If we are to prevent injuries and deaths occurring it is vital that operators and drivers take the necessary steps now to eliminate these risks rather than place pedestrians and fellow road users in unnecessary danger.”

Brigade, which introduced the reversing alarm to the UK back in 1976, has developed an aftermarket solution – the Quiet Vehicle Sounder. This is designed to save lives by producing a distinctive replacement sound that can be heard clearly in danger zones but less so elsewhere.

The sound is highly directional, enabling a pedestrian to tell where the vehicle is, and it varies in pitch and tone as the vehicle speeds up or slows down.

Mr Hanson-Abbott added: “Brigade identified the risk of electric vehicles years ago and set out to find a solution.

“The Quiet Vehicle Sounder is a revolution in automotive safety and one which will save lives and spare people from being injured in needless accidents.”

New legislation which comes into force in July 2019 will require the mandatory fitment of Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems (AVAS), for all new quiet (electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell) vehicle models registered after 1st September 2019 and all new vehicle registrations after 1st September 2021.


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