Electric vehicles labelled ‘silent killers’

13.03 | 8 May 2018 | | 16 comments

Millions of vulnerable pedestrians, including the blind, are being put at risk because electric vehicles are too quiet, it has been claimed.

Describing electrified vehicles as ‘silent killers’, the campaign group SteerSafe has criticised the authorities for fast-tracking the technology in a ‘desperate bid to reduce air pollution’.

The group’s founder, Christopher Hanson-Abbott OBE, told the Daily Mail electric cars have ‘no artificial sound to warn of their approach’, adding that vulnerable road users face the biggest threat in built-up areas due to lower speeds.

EU rules say noise-emitting generators must be fitted to new electric and hybrid models from 2019 and retrofitted to existing ‘quiet cars’ by 2021.

But SteerSafe – which campaigns to eliminate ‘avoidable accidents’ – says this action is coming too late, with electric cars and buses already in service today ‘at the peril of some people’.

Mr Hanson-Abbott is calling for ministers to ‘set an example’ by making the UK the first European country to introduce laws forcing electric cars to make a noise at low speed.

He said: “Silent killers are poised in increasing numbers to invade our streets.

“Vulnerable road users, millions of them – children, the elderly, the blind, the deaf, headphone wearers, the preoccupied and the unwary – all are threatened by the stealthy slow-speed approach of soundless vehicles.

“The EU plans to regulate for added approach-sound but not until July next year. By then countless lives will have been imperilled.

“Public awareness of this hazard is already widespread and the UK must set an example now.”



Comment on this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Report a reader comment

Order by Latest first | Oldest first | Highest rated | Lowest rated

    Maybe Guzzi, but still worrying…it’s a fundamental requirement of driving/riding surely?

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

    Hugh, maybe you presume too much. Perhaps it is the other view you expressed in the comment that they disagree with. The inference that you can be 100% successful in always allowing for reaction and braking times?

    Guzzi, Newport
    Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

    It’s a bit worrying that at least two people appear to disagree that ‘looking where one is going’ and ‘not having tunnel vision’ is a good idea when driving.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (1) | Disagree (2)

    Having good all round vision helps and also a frame of mind that is safety conscious which unfortunately doesn’t apply to most drivers. If the road is busy they should slow down but do they? If the road is wet do they slow down? If it’s raining do they? If it’s evening and street lighting is on and visibility is reduced by 70% do they slow down? Following a bus by some 20 ft distance only, do they slow down? The answer to all of these questions is No. They continue at or up to the allowable speed no matter what is apparent in front and to the side of them and that is where they and to some degree we have got it all wrong. The vast majority of drivers have little or no conception of the rules of the road as per the Highway Code and if read they don’t believe that it applies to them.

    M.Worthington, Manchester
    Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

    Possibly Mr Walker was referring to my (Mr Hughes?) comment about braking, but many drivers/riders manage to avoid collisions in these circumstances because they make a point of allowing for reaction and braking times….looking where one is going and not having tunnel vision helps as well!

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (1) | Disagree (4)

    Using Mr Hughes logic ther would be no collisions, but in the real world, there is such a thing as reaction time and braking deceleration.

    Richard Walker, london
    Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

    Surprised that no one else has pointed out that The Green Cross Code is quite clear about vehicle noise and crossing the road
    3. Look all around for traffic and listen

    Look all around for traffic and listen.
    Look in every direction.
    Listen carefully because you can sometimes hear traffic before you can see it.

    Richard Walker, London
    Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

    It may be true that silent vehicles are a danger to pedestrians, however noise pollution from traffic causes stress to people in the area which has a negative effect on their health. Why not just have electric vehicles make a noise when they are braking?

    Longer-term, as technology progresses, cars should be able to recognise pedestrians who are about to cross the road and warn them.

    John Davey, London
    Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

    Electric cables trailing on the ground across a walking route in the photo. Wouldn’t be allowed in a factory. Do public spaces/the highway have the equivalent to the Health & Safety at Work act? What happens if you accidentally or deliberately drop the charger in a puddle?

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

    There is little point in having brakes if one is driving too fast for the conditions at that time. A completely empty road may be driven at higher speeds, possibly to speed limit with a degree of safety. Where there are pedestrians and other traffic that makes it a busy place to be then we need to slow and look out for others, that we do them no harm. If a pedestrian steps out directly in front of us without looking or warning or space enough to stop in who is to blame. Them or us.

    When in the police service we were instructed to always walk facing the direction of travel as that way we could see each and every vehicle approaching and see the driver and they could see us and our faces. It works well and it makes sure we don’t just step of the kerb with our backs to the traffic and without turning round.

    Bob Craven
    Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

    The all electric Renault Zoe pool car I sometimes use, emits an annoying (to me) high pitch whistling sound at low speed. Surely it’s not beyond the wit of man (or Renault) to produce something that sounds like a V8?
    Oh, by the way, as long as the journey is fairly short, the Zoe is an excellent car to drive. I’m just not sure I’m ready to buy one yet.

    Martin A, Ipswich
    Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

    Like silent bicycles, electric vehicles also have brakes, so if a pedestrian does step out not having heard said ‘silent’ vehicle, the driver stops..simple really – the marvels of modern science. Nigel Allbright coined a phrase elsewhere: ‘threat perception’ – that’s all it takes.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (3) | Disagree (15)

    Well, it makes a change from the ‘loud pipes save lives’ mantra of some bikers. Although I have to say that no one stepped in the road in front of me when I had bike exhausts that sounded like they were emitting 100 decibels.

    Guzzi, Newport
    Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

    Does anyone have data to show that electric/hybrid vehicles are disproportionately involved in these type of collisions?

    I can also see that very soon we’ll see these manufacturers offering custom exhaust tones for download, much like a phone ringtone. Whether that will bring it’s own issues we’ll have to wait and see…

    Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire
    Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

    Electric and hybrid-fuel cars will be required to produce noise when traveling at low speeds under a new rule issued by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This is to prevent these vehicles from injuring pedestrians, especially people who are blind or are visually impaired.

    Electric cars, which are growing increasingly popular among manufacturers and consumers, make hardly any engine noise. The only noises they usually generate is caused by wind resistance or tyre noises, and that is only at moderate to higher speeds.

    The new rule requires all newly manufactured electric vehicles 10,000 pounds or less to make an audible noise when traveling forward or in reverse at speeds 19 mph or less. NHTSA says the sound alert is not required at higher speeds because other factors, such as tyre and wind noise, “provide adequate audible warning to pedestrians.” It doesn’t explain what kind of alert automakers use, so whether it’s a fake engine noise or a “beeping” noise will be up the manufacturers of electric vehicles.

    “We all depend on our senses to alert us to possible danger,” US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “With more, quieter hybrid and electrical cars on the road, the ability for all pedestrians to hear as well as see the cars becomes an important factor of reducing the risk of possible crashes and improving safety.”

    Manufacturers have until September 1st, 2019, to equip their vehicles with the new alert, but half of new hybrid and electric vehicles must be in compliance one year before the final deadline. The mandate is being issued as part of a pedestrian safety law passed by Congress in 2010 and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

    Advocates for the blind praised the new rule. Eric Bridges, executive director of the American council of the Blind, said in a statement that it will “make our streets safer for blind and visually impaired Americans,” while Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said it “will protect all pedestrians, especially the blind, as well as cyclists.”

    Some manufacturers of electric cars have been grappling with the issue of nearly silent electric cars, but not in the interest of protecting passengers. Porsche, for instance, has been working on make its Mission E electric sports sedan noisier to satisfy sports car customers who prefer a growl when they gun the engine. Fiat Chrysler and McLaren are also aiming to inject some artificial engine noises in their electric vehicles.

    Peter wilson, Westminster
    Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

    “….all are threatened by the stealthy slow-speed approach of soundless vehicles.” A bit like bicycles then, which have been around for decades and which the authorities are eager to promote more use of.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (10) | Disagree (8)

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.