Change to electric vehicles will save lives, prevent injury

New electric vehicles will need to be fitted with an Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System come 2025.

New electric vehicles will need to be fitted with an Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System come 2025. Photo: Getty

Electric vehicles will be required to make some noise on Australian roads and potentially avoid nearly 70 fatalities before 2060.

Starting in 2025 under Australian Design Rules (ADR), all new electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel vehicles, including cars, trucks and buses, will need to be fitted with an Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS).

AVAS is a safe sound alert or sound that is emitted when an electric vehicle is travelling at a low speed, in locations such as car parks, intersections and driveways.

The sounds will be required to reach 50 decibels, or the volume of a typical conversation, and will be highest at lower speeds to alert pedestrians to vehicles’ presence.

The lack of noise from electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles makes it harder for pedestrians to hear them, when compared to vehicles with conventional petrol or diesel engines.

Australia is not the first country to introduce such a mandate.

In fact, the new legislation merely brings it in line with existing requirements in the United States and European Union.

Swinburne University of Technology future urban mobility professor Hussein Dia says the research and experiences overseas proves Australia needs to introduce this change.

“It’s ultimately a good development because it will save lives,” he said.

“If sounds are produced at lower speeds, provided the volume is not high, they should not disturb anyone.”

New electric vehicle rules will save lives

In a press release from the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Minister Catherine King, the government said the ADR update could avoid about 68 fatalities over the coming decades.

“The new ADR is expected to avoid around 68 fatalities, 2675 serious injuries and 2962 minor injuries by 2060 and is estimated it will save the Australian community $208 million,” the press release stated.

The legislation is particularly important for people who are blind or have low vision and rely on sound to navigate the road as a pedestrian, as they are at greater risk of being in a collision.

The announcement from the federal government to mandate a minimum sound requirement for hybrid and electric vehicles was welcomed by Vision Australia.

The not-for-profit organisation along with Monash University did a report that confirmed 35 per cent of people who are blind or have low vision were involved in either a collision or near-collision with a hybrid or electric vehicle.

A supplied image obtained on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, of Vision Australia government relations director Chris Edwards with his guide dog in Melbourne. (AAP Image/Supplied by Vision Australia) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Vision Australia’s Chris Edwards welcomed the new requirements.

Like playing Russian roulette

Vision Australia has been advocating for hybrid and electric vehicles to be fitted with AVAS since October 2018, Vision Australia manager of government relations and advocacy Chris Edwards said.

“All pedestrians should have the right to feel safe and confident when navigating public spaces and today’s announcement is a significant step towards protecting that for people who are blind or have low vision,” he added.

“There is no doubt that this is an announcement that will save lives.”

Edwards has had his own brush with quiet vehicles in the past. Years ago, he took a risk crossing a busy road, something the legally blind man now describes as equivalent to playing “Russian roulette”.

He listened carefully for cars before stepping off the footpath but a vehicle struck him within seconds, hurling his body across its bonnet.

“I misjudged it and fortunately there were no major injuries but I was bruised and battered and my ego stung,” he said.

“To cross a road when you don’t know if a car is there is a very frightening experience.”

With AAP

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