People who are blind or have low vision are at greater risk of having a collision with an electric or hybrid car because of low engine noise, especially when the vehicle is driving at low speed.
A report by Vision Australia and Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) found that 35 per cent of people surveyed, who are blind or have low vision, had either a collision or near-collision with an electric or hybrid vehicle. Each year, it is estimated that the number of electric vehicles purchased will grow and by 2050, they will make up 90 per cent of the entire vehicle fleet.
Vision Australia general manager government relations and advocacy, Karen Knight, said pedestrians who are blind or have low vision rely more heavily on other sensory systems such as hearing and touch. She said quiet engines “can be a real problem in car parks and near driveways, and… a major concern for distracted pedestrians, children, the elderly and people who are blind or have low vision”.
The majority of incidents recorded by survey participants happened in places where pedestrians have right of way, for example pedestrian crossings and walking along footpaths.
MUARC research fellow Dr. Sara Liu said, “the risk of incidents between electric and hybrid vehicles is likely to increase unless measures are taken to protect vulnerable road users”.
Vision Australia is encouraging the Australian Government to ensure an Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS) is fitted to all hybrid and electric vehicles, as is the case in Europe. The AVAS would require an electric or hybrid vehicle to make a noise when travelling forward or in reverse, up to and including 20km/h.