Audible alerts are necessary

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The development of green electric cars, not least those built in the north east, is great news for consumers whose motoring costs are reduced and for the environment as well as conserving energy supplies.

However, there is a downside. Elderly, blind and partially sighted people are at risk from electric cars because they rely on hearing sound to judge when it is safe to cross a road.

Electric cars cannot be heard until they are just one second away from impact with a pedestrian.

Research shows that these vehicles were involved in 25 per cent more collisions with pedestrians in 2010-12 compared to average vehicles. Crashes involving quiet vehicles trebled between 2005 and 2008.

The European Parliament endorsed the mandatory installation of Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System for all quiet vehicles in February 2013.

But British ministers, who have been cutting funding for road safety, speed cameras and scrapped targets to cut deaths and serious injuries, are pushing for audio alerting systems to be voluntary.

They should follow the example of the US and Japan in making this safety feature mandatory in all quiet cars.

The call for this safety measure is backed by disability organisations and the AA and the RAC.

Last week, I secured a special debate in the Commons to push this idea which, combined with pressure from the public, will, I hope, persuade ministers to do the right thing.