Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420-439)|
WEDNESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2002
420. If it is possible to do charging with a
system from the sky, it is also possible to regulate speed from
the sky, is it not? What are you doing about intelligent speed
(Mr Spellar) There is some work being done to see
how that would be a good experience for driving, either for individual
control or from external control. I think a number of countries
are looking at that. That by no means, by the way, concedes the
argument as to whether it would be a good or bad idea in order
to try and conduct congestion charging by external control and
the huge capital cost, let alone a whole number of other considerations,
that would have to be examined on what are some interesting ideasbut
no more than ideasthat have been put forward on that. You
would have to look at whether that was desirable or effective.
You could have technically land-based systems that would indicate
the speed on a particular road. Now, a number of cars already
have speed limiters; heavy goods vehicles have speed limiters
by law, of course.
421. How effectively are they working?
(Mr Spellar) Reasonably effectively. There are a number
of heavy goods vehicles that have overridden their speed limiters
and that is obviously a matter of concern and this is not just
British legislation but it applies broadly across Europe. There
are a number of aspects, for example, about collision avoidance
or about the ability to
422. I understand the difficulties with it but
when could we possibly have it in place in this country?
(Mr Spellar) You mean the technicalities of being
able to put that in?
(Mr Spellar) I will have to drop you a note on that.
There would be technical feasibility but I think you would have
to look at the much broader issues of whether this would be an
effective way of traffic management. We are also awaiting, with
the number of vehicles that we are having driven around at the
moment on test, to get a feel from the driver's point of view
as to whether that makes driving more or less difficult. One of
the advantages from a driver's point of view, particularly in
an urban area with changing speed limits, is that you do not then
need to be constantly looking at your speed dials in order to
check whether you are below the current limit.
424. Given the cost of all the traffic calming
measures, it might be cost effective, might it not?
(Mr Spellar) All of these are issues that will have
to be considered in any valuation, and also the effectiveness
of whether it would lead to a significant reduction in accidents.
It is not just about speed limits; it is also, as I indicated
right at the start in my opening remarks, about appropriate levels
of speed. You may be within the speed limit but given other traffic
or, indeed, the road conditions due to weather or other factors,
it may still be an inappropriate speed.
425. Moving to car design, why did you veto
or prevent the European Union issuing a directive which would
make car design such that accidents at whatever speed would be
(Mr Spellar) It was particularly accidents between
vehicles and pedestrians, and we believe that having a voluntary
agreement between the major car manufacturers and the Commission
would lead to changes coming in much sooner and more effectively.
426. A voluntary agreement is pretty pathetic,
is it not?
(Mr Spellar) Not really.
427. The Honda Civic already achieves those
(Mr Spellar) It shows the voluntary method can work.
428. No, because if you do a voluntary method
at a very low standard it is not worth the paper it is written
(Mr Spellar) Not at all. If you can voluntarily negotiate
with the manufacturers steady improvements, that is very much
to be welcomed and can bring those changes in sooner at considerable
429. Some of the highest speeds on the roads
are from young motorists. What are you doing about them, and their
(Mr Spellar) Both within the driving test and driving
instruction trying to focus their attention and by publicity as
well, recognising the considerable difficulties that we do have.
One of the questions that we are still trying to get a firm answer
on is whether it is the age of the motorist or whether it is in
their first year of driving that we have the significant problem.
430. That is why you did not want to raise the
age limit for young people to drive to 18, is that right?
(Mr Spellar) I think it is an issue we have still
431. The thing is that we did a report which
made it very clear that large numbers of young people are not
even taking the complete driving test. We really want to know
what action has been taken by the Department since that report
(Ms McMahon) We will be publishing consultation documents
setting out options and different measures to address the safety
of young drivers.
(Ms McMahon) Very shortly.
433. You are beginning to sound like the Prime
Minister. Define "very shortly".
(Ms McMahon) It will be out on Friday.
434. On young motorists, very quickly, would
you recognise that there is a big gender differentiation with
young motorists and injuries and casualties, and what are you
doing on that?
(Mr Spellar) I think the other question within that
is whether it is within their first year of motoring
435. With respect, that was in our report as
well. We need to know what your consultation document is going
to say and come back to you. Finally, now, we need to know, as
a Committee, whether the Department is now prepared to move from
cure to prevention and to introduce design improvements before
people are killed, not afterwards?
(Mr Spellar) Firstly I should say that the record,
which is a very significant reduction in the number of those killed
and seriously injured, is a tribute to the work that has already
been done, and I reiterate that we do have the safest roads in
Europe along with Sweden. That is no reason for complacency but
it is a good comparison. That is a mixture of driver behaviour,
vehicle design and also road design.
436. So when you have a scheme like the one
in Hull with the 20 mile reduction zones, you monitor that carefully,
(Mr Spellar) We will be
437. You will be?
(Mr Spellar) Well, we are monitoring the outcomes
precisely because we want to see what works most effectively,
what works in different environments between urban, suburban,
city centre and rural areas.
438. So how soon can you give us an estimate
on numbers of lives saved?
(Mr Spellar) By the 20 mph reduction zones?
(Ms McMahon) We already have estimates from TRL research
and they are continually monitoring