South West MEPs pleased as silent cars are to make noise in the name of safety - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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South West MEPs pleased as silent cars are to make noise in the name of safety

Sunday, 10 February 2013
South West MEPs have praised the introduction of mandatory acoustic vehicle alerting systems (AVAS) in quiet vehicles such as electric and hybrid cars to protect vulnerable road users, following a vote earlier this week in the European Parliament.

Meeting in Strasbourg this week, MEPs approved an EU regulation on the sound level of motor vehicles by 401 votes to 228, with 22 abstentions that includes an amendment stipulating that car manufacturers shall be required to install AVAS in vehicles. The exact nature of the sound that the cars will be required to emit has still to be determined, and the ministers from each EU member state will now have to agree to the plan before a standard becomes European law.

Reacting to the vote, Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson said: "Quiet cars are to be welcomed, but not if they are so quiet that safety is put at risk. The sound of a braking car can provide a signal to a blind or partially sighted person that it is safe to cross, but if this is too quiet on an electric car, AVAS can solve this problem by providing a warning."

"Silent vehicles are not only an issue for blind and partially sighted people but also for children, cyclists and other vulnerable road users. That's why Liberal Democrats voted in favour of mandatory acoustic warning devices in silent cars today."

Conservative MEP Julie Girling, speaking to Radio EP and recalling her time behind the wheel of a hybrid car, said they are “very quiet […] and when it is in quiet mode there is no noise at all and people would constantly step off pavements when you’re at low speeds in built-up areas.

She added that this move by the Parliament is intended to put such measures in place before more and more hybrid and electric vehicles roll onto the roads to ensure that everyone is best protected.

UPDATE (15/02, 20.10):
Following a recent visit to the regional headquarters of Guide Dogs for the Blind in Exeter, SW Conservative MEP Ashley Fox wrote on his Facebook page: “When we cross the road a fully sighted person uses a combination of sight and sound to identify whether it is safe to cross or not. For a blind person, they have to rely on their hearing alone. The increase in the number of quiet vehicles, such as hybrid or electric cars, on our roads therefore poses a real threat to blind people in our communities.

I am delighted to say that AVAS will now be mandatory in quiet vehicles. Our roads are already dangerous enough for everyone and we need as many of our senses as possible working to identify where the threat is coming from and how we can avoid it.

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