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- NCBI's Submission on Biofuel Obligation Scheme
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Summary: NCBI’s Response to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources public consultation paper on the Biofuels Obligation Scheme.
In response to the consultative process, NCBI focused on the growing popularity of greener “silent” vehicles and what this might mean for the safety of pedestrians who are blind and vision impaired.
Over the past few years “silent” vehicles have come on to the market and more are expected to be produced in the future. Green issues are high on the public agenda with environmentally friendly and eco-technologies growing in popularity.
NCBI recognises the environmental benefits of hybrid vehicles and we encourage the increased acceptance of greener vehicles such as hybrid and electric vehicles as they play an important role in improving fuel economy and reducing emissions.
However, there is a concern among people who are blind and vision impaired that the introduction of “silent” vehicles, will have safety implications for them.
Most people with impaired vision rely heavily on their sense of hearing when crossing roads and will use the noise of oncoming traffic as a cue for when it is safe to cross a road. The logic is therefore that there is a greater risk for blind and vision impaired people from hybrid vehicles due the lower noise levels.
Mobility and orientation training offers pedestrians who are blind and vision impaired guidance on safe travel techniques. One of these techniques is to listen to the sound of a vehicles engine to establish its movement and speed when there are no other safety features provided such as audio tactile pedestrian crossing points. Sounds from traffic inform pedestrians who are blind and vision impaired how fast vehicles are moving, whether the vehicles are accelerating or slowing down and whether the vehicles are traveling toward or away from them. The information interpreted from listening to traffic sounds can enable blind and vision-impaired pedestrians to determine when it is safe to proceed across a road. There is a concern that if vehicles become “silent”, this will no longer be the case.
There is a genuine need to generate greater understanding and awareness of the impact of these vehicles on the safety of people who are blind and vision impaired.
NCBI is therefore calling on the Department to:
- Conduct independent research into the safety profile of hybrid vehicles for people who are blind and vision impaired.
- Publish the findings of this research prior to the introduction of “silent” vehicles onto Irish roads.
- Engage with people who are blind and vision impaired in light of these findings so that their interests are fully considered as part of an evidence based model aimed at improving road safety for pedestrians who are blind and vision impaired.
- Run awareness and education campaigns targeting:
- People who are blind and vision impaired as well as others who might have difficulties with mobility
- Drivers of hybrid vehicles to make them aware of the additional issues that these vehicles can pose for people who are blind and vision impaired as well as others with mobility issues.