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 http://ind.pn/nJwm8A.
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.