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Mr. Hopkins : To reinforce the point that the hon. Gentleman is making, may I point out that when random breath-testing was introduced in Australia, the police suddenly found that they were catching many more middle-aged people who were used to drinking and drivingthe people who should have been caught but were not?
John Thurso: A week ago, I had an interesting discussion with my mother. She said, "Oh darling, I am so gladI have now been told how many glasses of wine I can drink and it's safe to drive." I said, "Mama, you cannot do it like that, because there are different percentage rates of alcohol, and glass sizes are different. If you want to be really safe, don't do it all. If you happen to be just down the road and have half a glass, that's fine, but don't go any further than that." That is the problem. Middle-aged people think that the limit equals two or three glasses of wine, a couple of pints or three whiskies, but do not realise that depending on the metabolism of the person, the percentage by volume of the alcohol and the size of the glass, one drink may put them over the limit. Really, one does not drink and drive.
Although there is considerable merit in the proposal to reduce the permitted blood-alcohol level from 80 mg to 50 mg, there remains a big problem with people who are well over the limit, and we need to target them. The measures in the Bill are clearly sensible and will definitely help. However, we need to look again at the question of enforcement, as there is no substitute for traffic police officers who are able to stop people, make random searches and o ensure that offenders are kept off the roads.
Much in the Bill is sensible and deserves our support, and I do not intend to touch on all those aspects. I have reservations about some of the details, such as the fees to be charged for recalled licences, but those can happily wait until Committee. I am more concerned about notable omissions from the Bill that I should like to be included. One partial omission relates to what can be done about uninsured drivers, who are a major danger on our roads. They cost a great deal in terms of money and lives, and create immense misery. That issue deserves to be tackled. Although clause 39 will help, the Greenaway report made several recommendations that would have been of great value had they been included in the Bill and would have received support from all over the House. I hope that during the passage of the Bill the Government, perhaps with the aid of the Select Committee on Transport, will introduce further measures to combat that particular evil.
Another omissionI will not say that it is less important, but perhaps less severeis that of measures to make standard ECE 104 reflective tape for lorries
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mandatory. The Secretary of State said that he is unaware of the evidence on that, but I have compelling evidence that shows:
Another example is the retro-fitting of bull bars. Many Members have commented on bull bars, which are completely unnecessary in this country. I can think of no circumstances, not even on a farmor, dare I say it, an estatewhere bull bars are a necessity. The retro-fitting of bull bars greatly increases the vehicle's danger in the case of impact with a pedestrian, and I encourage the Government to insert a clause to ban it.
I have highlighted another problem, which although not grave is none the less important, to the Under-Secretary in correspondence. Several local authorities would like to be able to put up repeater signs in 30 mph limits, especially in rural areas where long distances may be travelled with some doubt about the limit. Local authorities of all hues and persuasions have asked me why they cannot erect repeater signs. According to the Under-Secretary's replies, they are not permitted to do so by law. Perhaps we could examine that.
Perhaps the most important point is framing a charge of causing death by negligent driving. An interesting debate was held in Westminster Hall at the beginning of September in which the subject was raised. Like many hon. Members, I am fully aware of the difficulty of framing such legislation but I have heard pleas for it from so many hon. Members and so many of our constituents that I believe it is incumbent on us as legislators to frame and introduce such a law. Again, I hope that the Government will be inclined to consider that.
I have a final suggestion. I doubt whether we can include it in the Bill, but I believe that it would make a difference. Several speakers have said that if the accident rateperhaps it should be more properly called the incident rateapplied to any other industry or mode of transport, we would be up in arms. All other modes of transport have specific units that investigate accidents. We should consider establishing a dedicated road accident investigation unit so that we could understand centrally what caused each accident and learn and apply the lessons. That is probably too complicated to include in the Bill but I should like the Government at least to think about it.
The Bill contains many sound provisions. As I said, we are happy to support it on Second Reading and we shall support it in Committee, where we should like to make some changes. I believe that many of the changes that I propose would find support from hon. Members in other parties. We all ultimately have an identical concern: we want fewer people killed and safer roads.
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Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax) (Lab): As joint chair of the all-party group on road safety, I am pleased about the Bill, which contains many welcome provisions. The Government's road safety strategy over the years has been progressive. It is worth repeating the Secretary of State's opening remark that we have one of the best road safety records in the world. However, it is essential to recognise that far more can be done.
In 2003, the number of people killed and seriously injured fell to 37,215. Although I say "fell", it remains a huge number, yet it is 22 per cent. below the 199498 average. Nevertheless, the figure represents human beings who have been seriously damaged or are no longer with us. The number of children killed or seriously injured fell to 4,100, which is 40 per cent. below the 199498 average. However, the figures still mean, as my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) said, that 10 people, some of them children, die every day on our roads. Imagine the outcry if that happened on trains or aeroplanes. Although we have a good record and the Government's strategy has been progressive, a big problem remains.
I do not want to go into too much detail about drink-driving because many other hon. Members have spoken about that. There had been advances until recently, but we have now reached a plateau and we might even go in the other direction. We should remember that 500 people a year die because of drink-driving. That is a shocking statistic. I am pleased that the Bill will give police new powers to take drink-driving evidence at the roadside. As the Secretary of State said, that closes a loophole and we are all pleased about that.
I wish that the Government had gone a little further, however, and introduced measures to bring the UK into line with most of the rest of Europe on drink-drive limits. I disagree with the hon. Members who said that there is no need for a reduction in those limits. I agree with Brake, the road safety charity, which is arguing for the limits to be brought down to the same level as those in Sweden. That would be 20 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of bloodif we went for the European average, it would be 50 mgand I think that that would be an acceptable level. The most up-to-date law on this is the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, which makes provision for a limit of 20 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood for train drivers and pilots, and I do not see the logic of its provisions not applying to road users. I hope that the Government will reconsider this matter. Having said that, I congratulate them on some of the measures in the Bill.
I would like briefly to refer to Brake again, because I have been involved in its campaign, "Watch out, there's a kid about". In 2003, the number of deaths on foot of children aged between eight and 19the age range in which children use the roads on foot without being accompanied by an adultwent up by 26 per cent. to 110, compared with 87 the previous year. We also should note that, for children aged between five and 14, road deaths are the second biggest killer after cancer, so we should take this issue seriously. Again, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich on this matter. Brake recommends speed limits of no higher than 20 mphand, where appropriate, 10 mpharound schools and in residential and built-up areas. I do not know why the Government do not accept that
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recommendation. A child on foot has a 95 per cent. chance of surviving a crash in which the car is travelling at 20 mph. That chance dwindles to almost none when the speed is increased to 40 mph.
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