Anything for a Quiet Life – Including Risking the Lives of Almost Two Million UK Citizens

The government will this week reject calls for artificial warning noises to be broadcast by zero emission cars, says the Independent in an article

printed yesterday. This is despite calls from charities representing blind and partially sighted people that some sort of noise is necessary to make

these silent vehicles safer for everyone.

In a quote from Lib Dem minister for Transport Norman Baker he said, “All drivers have a responsibility to drive safely and with consideration for

other road users.” We all know that this happens less and less. Yes there are still a lot of considerate people out there, but there are many many

drivers who don’t give a stuff about anyone else on the road so long as they get to where they want to be. I have had several near misses with vehicles

on the road and a couple of minor hits. Fortunately I have never been seriously injured by a vehicle, but I know plenty of blind and partially sighted

people who have.

In a study, ten visually impaired people were asked to listen to recordings of both silent vehicles and those with an internal combustion engine. From

their findings it was deduced that visually impaired people would be 1.4% more at risk in semi rural areas, and 1.3% more at risk in urban areas. So,

not a significant increase in risk, but nevertheless, an increase. And are ten subjects really enough to base a whole study on? A very concerning point

is that the vehicles were particularly difficult to hear pulling away.

The article ended thus: “The study found that while electric cars may pose a “potential risk” to visually impaired pedestrians, especially in city

centres, “the scale of the problem is currently very small”. The issue is also complicated by the development of increasingly quiet petrol and diesel

engines, in response to demand for a quieter driving experience.”

The complete article can be read at

What makes me sick to the stomach is that there approximately two million people in the UK with a serious sight loss according to the RNIB website. Yet

the government is prepared to brush their needs aside in favour of those selfish individuals who want a quiet driving experience. Are these people the

same ones who are opposed to announcements on trains because they distract them? So the government are prepared to pander to these people and increase

the chances of death or serious injury to a whole section of the population. They would never reject calls to make life safer for children or

motorists, and quite rightly so. So why are the lives of 2 million blind and partially sighted people treated as so expendable?

If any of those MPs sitting there making those decisions now based on so little evidence are reported as losing their sight in years to come, I’ll

watch their struggle every step of the way in the media and relish it. Too often the needs of blind people are seen as a bit of a nuisance but even I

was naive enough to never imagine that something which would increase our safety would be thrown out by the government.


About Mel Griffiths

I live and work in Nottingham, England and am blind. This blog is often centred around things that happen to me because of being blind. This is my space to write and sometimes people will disagree with what I write, but its the one place I have in which to be frank and honest. I also like to reflect on the funnier side of life from time to time.
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One Response to Anything for a Quiet Life – Including Risking the Lives of Almost Two Million UK Citizens

  1. Hugh Huddy says:

    Hi Mel, we’ve seen the article too and share the concern that this is a huge issue for blind and partially sighted pedestrians. We will be going through the gov’s research carefully and will pursue anything that we feel needs clarifying.

    Assistant Campaigns Officer

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