By: Gabbi Rabaa
For pedestrians who are blind or partially sighted, sound is an essential component of safe and independent navigation. Audible signals can help people to orient themselves to their surroundings, identify potential hazards, understand the flow of traffic, and determine when it’s safe to cross a street.
Enter hybrid and electric vehicles (HEVs), which can be virtually silent while travelling at speeds below 20 kilometres per hour. For pedestrians who are blind or partially sighted, as well as other vulnerable road users, the lack of an audible signal from HEVs travelling at low speeds poses significant risks.
Recognizing the dangers that quiet HEVs pose for vulnerable road users, the Government of Canada has created the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS) 141. This standard requires HEV manufacturers to equip vehicles with an Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS), which creates artificial sounds comparable to conventional vehicles.
CMVSS 141 applies to the following classes of vehicles:
- Multi-person passenger vehicles
- Passenger cars
- Low-speed vehicles
As municipal transit systems across Canada begin deploying hybrid and electric buses, governments and other stakeholders must ensure the presence of an effective AVAS to mitigate risk to pedestrians and transit riders. Blind and partially sighted transit riders waiting at bus stops could be at significant risk, as slow-moving buses that do not emit an audible signal would be undetectable.
You can help improve pedestrian safety in your community by writing a letter to your local councillor or municipal transit department and urging them to only purchase HEVs that are equipped with AVAS and by encouraging drivers of HEVs to make sure the AVAS remains activated and functioning properly.