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Guide dog saves blind man from walking into path of silent electric vehicle

Abby, Nathan Edge's guide dog saw the electric car that he couldn't hear, saving them from potential injury. Credit: BPM

A blind man from Mansfield was saved from a potential car crash with an electric car when his guide dog refused to lead him across the road.

Nathan Edge, who's 25, was on his way back from the doctors on a regular route, and was preparing to cross the road, but his guide dog Abby sat steadfastly rigid on the pavement.

Nathan, who is completely blind, was unable to hear the silent engine, but Abby could see the electric car coming towards them, and stayed on the pavement, saving them from potential injury.

Nathan said that it's up to him to listen for traffic but as he didn't hear anything he did the command to go forward but nothing happened.

"She didn't move and I didn't move", he said. "During training, you are taught to only step forward when the dog steps forwards. I didn't hear the electric car coming. Obviously it had no engine noise. A second later, I heard its tyre going through a puddle. You can sense a large vehicle coming by. Straight after, I realised what it was [and] why we did not go. After that I realised the severity. If I had a cane, the cane could not tell me a car was coming."

Nathan Edge from Mansfield wants all electric vehicles to be fitted with an acoustic sound system to make them easier to hear. Credit: BPM

From July 1 this year all manufacturers had to install an acoustic sound system in new types of quiet electric and hybrid electric vehicles to improve road safety.

Nathan had signed a petition to make this law, but he says he's worried about the thousands of electric cars already out there and whether they will be recalled to be installed with the new system. "The ones out there should be recalled," says Nathan. "The vehicle I came across that day is still out there".

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association says it's fighting to keep people with sight loss like Nathan safe through its Safe and Sound campaign which highlights awareness around the issue of quieter electric vehicles.

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams acknowledged the risks that pedestrians face. He said: “

As of July 2019, all new electric vehicles must have a noise-emitting device which sounds like a traditional engine when travelling below 12mph. This was introduced by the EU to address concerns that pedestrians’ lives were being put at risk due to electric cars and vans being too quiet.

While this is good news, it should be remembered that there are already tens of thousands of electric vehicles on the UK's roads which were produced before this rule was passed.

These vehicles, therefore, present an ongoing danger for all pedestrians, but particularly those who have sight issues. There is also an argument that electric vehicles should have to emit a sound whatever speed they are travelling at.

– Simon Williams - RAC