House of Commons - Explanatory Note
Road Safety Bill [HL] - continued          House of Commons

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Increase of penalties

Clause 50: Failure to comply with traffic lights at level crossings

Clause 50 makes special provision for higher penalties where an offence under section 36 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 of failing to comply with traffic signs is committed with respect to any traffic sign indicating that traffic is not to proceed over a level crossing. It raises the penalty on summary conviction to up to six months imprisonment, a level 5 fine (£5,000) or both and raises the penalty point endorsement to six points.

Clause 51: Careless or inconsiderate driving causing damage to a railway or other bridge over a road

188.     Clause 51 creates a new offence of driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, in cases where the driver causes damage to a railway or other bridge on a road or other public place. It makes the person liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, a fine not exceeding level 5 (£5,000) or both and an endorsement of not less than six penalty points.

Clause 52: Measures to promote road safety at railway and other bridges

189.     Clause 52 amends section 122(2) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 which lists matters to which local authorities exercising their functions under that Act are required so far as practicable to have regard. It adds "the need to remove the risk of heavy commercial and other vehicles from colliding with railway and other bridges crossing highways by installing warning devices and physical barriers on the highways approaching such bridges".

Clause 53: Power to impose requirements on traffic authorities as regards to protective equipment at level crossings

190.     The Level Crossings Act 1983, as amended by the Level Crossings Regulations 1997, enables the Secretary of State to make Level Crossings Orders specifying the protective equipment (such as barriers and warning lights) to be provided at a particular level crossing for the protection of those using the crossing. Current orders place this requirement only on the operator of the railway. This clause would amend the Level Crossings Act 1983 to expressly empower the Secretary of State in a level crossing order to require the relevant traffic or highway authority (as well as the railway operator) to provide and maintain equipment for the protection of level crossing users.

Stopping up of crossings

Clause 54: Stopping up and diversion of crossings, Clause 55: Stopping up of roads crossing railways

191.     Provisions under section118A of the Highways Act 1980 relate to the stopping up or diversion of footpaths and bridleways that cross railways. These clauses extend the provisions to include "roads" with the meaning of "any highway or other road to which the public has access."

192.     The effect of these powers is to enable a local authority by order (confirmed by the Secretary of State) to stop up a road when it appears expedient in the interests of safety to members of the public using it or likely to use it.

Clause 56: Vehicles modified to run on fuel stored under pressure

193.     This clause amends (i) section 41 of the RTA, which empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations dealing with the construction and use of vehicles, and (ii) section 66 of the RTA, which empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations prohibiting the grant of vehicle licences except on certain conditions.

194.     The powers under section 41(2) are extended to regulate specifically the modification of vehicles to enable them to be powered by fuel stored under pressure. They would apply to fuels, such as liquefied petroleum gas ("LPG") and compressed natural gas ("CNG") which, because they are stored under pressure, have a higher risk of explosion than petrol or diesel stored at ambient pressure. Regulations made under section 41 are enforceable through section 42 of the RTA. Section 42 makes it an offence to contravene or fail to comply with construction and use requirements, or to use on a road a motor vehicle which does not comply with such requirements.

195.     There is currently no mechanism for inspecting the safety of alternative fuel vehicle modifications or for preventing vehicles that have been so modified from being used on a road. Vehicles are often modified after they have been registered, and the adequacy of that modification will not be covered by annual 'MOT' tests.

196.     Under the new section 41(2A) powers, the Secretary of State could introduce a new scheme, requiring modified vehicles to be tested by authorised examiners and issued with a new form of certificate verifying satisfactory modification. Examiners could be audited by the Secretary of State in accordance with the regulations. Authorised examiners could be required to notify the Secretary of State of any vehicle modification carried out (whether or not a certificate was issued).

197.     Once regulations under section 41(2) are made, the Secretary of State could provide under existing powers for the annual "MOT test" to check the continuing safety of any alternative fuel modifications on a vehicle.

198.     The clause also amends section 66 to enforce the new certification provisions through the vehicle licensing regime (under which it is an offence to drive without a valid licence). The new section 66(7A) will ensure that evidence of a certificate of a satisfactory examination will be required before a licence can be granted in respect of a modified vehicle.

Clause 57: Powers to regulate transport of radioactive material

199.     Regulations for the safe transport of radioactive material by road are made under the Radioactive Material (Road Transport) Act 1991 ("the 1991 Act").

200.     The successful enforcement of these regulations depends on understanding the causes behind incidents and accidents involving the transport of radioactive material. This enforcement is hampered when individuals refuse to provide assistance and information voluntarily to inspectors conducting investigations.

201.     Clause 57 amends the regulation making powers of section 2 of the 1991 Act by allowing the making of regulations:

  • to impose formal requirements for the provision of assistance and information on those involved in the transport of radioactive material; and

  • to authorise such requirements being imposed by inspectors when conducting an investigation.

202.     The scope of the offence in section 2(4) is expanded so that it will be an offence for any person to contravene or fail to comply with any requirement imposed by or by virtue of regulations made under section 2.

Clause 58: Private hire vehicles in London

203.     This will amend section 1(1)(a) of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998.

204.     Section 1(1)(a) currently reads:

     "private hire vehicle" means a vehicle constructed or adapted to seat fewer than nine passengers which is made available with a driver to the public for hire for the purpose of carrying passengers, other than a licensed taxi or a public service vehicle".

205.     The Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 provides a system of licensing for private hire operators, private hire drivers and private hire vehicles based in London. The commonly accepted term for "private hire vehicle" (PHV) is minicab, but the Act covers a wider range of services, such as limousines and chauffeur cars.

206.     As it stands, the 1998 Act requires an individual to acquire licences where the private hire service he provides is available to the public. Where an individual provides a private hire service which is restricted to carrying a specified passenger or group of passengers (e.g. a contract with a local authority) he falls outside the 1998 Act. He can provide his service without requiring an operator's licence, a driver's licence or a vehicle licence.

207.     The clause will ensure that the original intention of the legislation is met, that is to bring within the PHV licensing regime all PHV operators, drivers and vehicles whether they are providing a service to selected individuals or groups or to the public at large.

Clause 59: Minor corrections

208.     Clause 59 corrects some minor errors in earlier legislation relevant to the provisions of the Bill.

Supplementary provisions

Clause 61: Power to make amendments

209.     Clause 61 enables the Secretary of State to make amendments to other legislation (primary and secondary) where, as a consequence of the coming into force of a provision of the Bill, he considers it appropriate to do so. Although every attempt has been made to amend or repeal all provisions of other legislation which conflict with, or are inconsistent with, a provision of the Bill, such a power would need to be exercised if following Royal Assent it was discovered that the effect of a particular provision had been overlooked. The power might be also be applied to a provision of an Act passed after this Bill but before the provision in question comes into force.

210.     The exercise of the power is subject to an affirmative resolution in both Houses of Parliament.

Clause 62: Commencement

211.     Clause 62 provides for commencement of the Bill's provisions. Save for clauses 1 and 47 and certain miscellaneous and supplementary provisions, the provisions of the Bill will come into force on a day appointed by order of the Secretary of State. Clauses 1 and 47 come into force two months after Royal Assent. Subsection (6) provides for clauses 5, 8, 9 and 10 and Schedules 1, 2 and 3 to be brought into force in a particular order to give effect to the purpose of the Bill.

212.     Subsection (4) provides that section 2B of the RTA (the new offence of causing death by careless, or inconsiderate, driving) and section 3ZB of that Act (the new offence of causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers) will only apply to driving occurring after those sections are commenced.

213.     The effect of subsection (5) is that where offences under sections 2B and 3ZB of the RTA are committed before the commencement of section 154(1) Criminal Justice Act 2003 the maximum custodial penalty on summary conviction, throughout Great Britain, will be 6 months. Once that provision does come into force, magistrates' courts in England and Wales will have the full benefit of their extended sentencing powers, such as the custody plus scheme.


214.     A statement has been made by the Secretary of State under section 19(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 to the effect that he believes the Bill to be compatible with the Convention Rights. No issues arise in connection with specific provisions of the Bill which merit special mention.


215.     Upon full implementation the Bill is expected to incur additional costs in the region of £6 million to the public sector in the first year, thereafter it is estimated there will be annual recurring costs in the region of £1million. These funds have been accounted for within existing budgets and can be broken down as follows:

ClausesProvisionEstimated initial cost (annual cost)
3-7 & 11 Graduated and other fixed penalties and financial penalty deposits£2.2m (£0.8m)
48Trunk Road picnic areas£3m (£0.3m) per site
56Vehicles modified to run on fuel stored under pressure£0.3-£1m

216.     Clauses 20 & 21 are estimated to involve additional costs of around £2m and a possible 155 prison places.

217.     The funding arrangements for Clause 22 and Schedule 4 are currently under discussion.

218.     It should also be noted that some clauses in the Bill make provision for fees to be charged for services to ensure proposals are cost neutral to the Consolidated Fund. All fees charged will be levied on a cost recovery basis only and will accord with the "user-pays" principle. Fees will be paid into the appropriate agency trading funds as indicated below.

Provisions (with relevant clauses)Relevant Agency
Driving Standards (36,37,38,39, 40 & 41)Driving Standards Agency
Regulation of registration plate suppliers (42-44)DVLA
Particulars to be included in vehicles register (45 & 46)DVLA
Vehicles Modified to run on fuel stored under pressure (56)Vehicle and Operator Services Agency

219.     Finally, some elements of the Bill take the power to charge a fee to recover possible future costs incurred in excess of current budgets. These include areas which have yet to be fully developed such as the experimental alcohol ignition interlock programme or where full financial implications will depend upon the timing of implementation e.g. costs to be recovered through fees for any recall exercise of old format licences will depend upon the numbers of licences to be recalled - dependent upon when such an exercise is undertaken. For more detailed analysis of the costs and financial implications of the Bill please refer to the Regulatory Impact Assessment, available as indicated below.


220.     None of the Bill's provisions has significant implications for public service manpower.


221.     The Regulatory Impact Assessment sets out the costs and benefits of the Bill's provisions and concludes that the Benefits outweigh the costs in a wide range of measures. Furthermore it concludes that the Bill will contribute towards an improvement in road safety, and further the achievement of the government's long term casualty reduction targets. The Regulatory Impact Assessment also indicates that the Bill will not create a large burden or adverse effects on small business, charities or the voluntary sector.

222.     Copies of the Regulatory Impact Assessment are available from the Department for Transport's website: or by contacting David Pullen, Department for Transport, 2/11 Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DR or


223.     The greater part of the Bill amends existing legislation, particularly the RTA and the RTOA, and the amendments generally have the same extent as the enactments amended. In consequence the majority of the Bill's provisions extend to Great Britain. The exceptions are as follows:-

Clauses 1, 42, 43, 48 and 58 extend only to England and Wales.

Clauses 44 and 47(1) extend to the United Kingdom as a whole.

Clause 47(2) extends only to Northern Ireland.

Territorial Extent: Wales

224.     Of the provisions extending to Wales certain clauses legislate in devolved matters either by granting new powers to the Welsh Assembly Government or amending existing powers. For more detailed analysis of these powers please refer to the relevant sections of these Notes as indicated below:

ClauseSubject matter
1 Road Safety Grants
14Alcohol Ignition Interlocks
34 & 35Attendance on Courses
48Trunk Road Picnic Areas
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Prepared: 12 January 2006