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Electric cars: A silent killer?

Electric cars are becoming increasingly popular. Photo: ITV

Electric cars are becoming increasingly popular. They are clean, efficient and compared to a petrol or diesel, quieter.

That silence is often one of their selling points, but a woman from Tavistock says their lack of noise is dangerous to visually impaired people after she narrowly avoided being hit.

Debra and her guide dog Crystal. Credit: ITV News

Debra is registered blind, and needs her guide dog Crystal to help her navigate the streets of her home in Tavistock.

However, to be Debra's eye Crystal uses her ears - and that has raised some concerns.

Electric cars are becoming increasingly popular here in the UK - this year almost 4,000 them were registered a month.

For people like Debra, who are partially sighted or blind - the silent engines sound like a bad idea.

She had a near miss when walking in Paignton and although she doesn't know what model of car nearly hit her, she knows she didn't hear it coming.

We had to jump out of the way. electric cars are good, but they don't make any noise. And a guide dog is trained to listen to cars, and look for cars, and if they cant see them until they're almost on top, or hear them, then something bad will happen.

– Debra Roffey
Steve Hyde is from the National Institute of Blind People. Credit: ITV News

At the moment, many models of electric cars are fitted with a button which simulates the sound of an engine. It's optional and can be turned off by the driver.

Steve Hyde from the Royal National Institute of Blind People has had his own brushes with danger. His message for motorists is clear.

Keep it on, think of other people. It might not just be people who are visually impaired, it could be someone on a mobile phone, texting a message.

They go to cross the road because they can't hear a vehicle coming, it is a potential hazard.

– Steve Hyde, Royal National Institute of Blind People

EU Regulations require manufacturers to fit artificial sound generators on new types of electric and hybrid electric vehicles from 2019.

Nissan has already developed an artificial warning sound which will be clearly audible for pedestrians.

By 2021, all new electric and hybrid electric vehicles on sale will have to have sound generators.

In the meantime though, Debra would like electric car drivers to make sure their vehicle doesn't have the potential to become a silent killer.