Road Safety Bill [Lords]
Dr. Ladyman: I am grateful to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland for raising this important subject. I was pleased to hear that my earlier comments rekindled his enthusiasm for Europe, although I was not aware that the Liberal Democrats had lost their
The hon. Member for North Shropshire is correct: there is merit in exploring the idea, but both he and the hon. Gentleman would be the first to agree that we cannot legislate yet, because a bunch of guys sitting around talking is probably not a good evidential base for legislation. Nevertheless, it is clear that black box recorders have long-term merit.
Mr. Paterson: The bunch of guys sitting around talking was the hon. Gentlemans definition of current traffic investigations, his criticism being that the investigations do not have accurate data. He was obviously proposing that the system that he is trying to sell to the US Government is a much more accurate data supplier, so that the bunch of guys would not have to sit around talking.
Dr. Ladyman: I realise that I am slow on the uptake sometimes, but I got the point. My point is that the present evidence for the potential of black boxes is also largely derived from a bunch of guys sitting around talking. That is a necessary first stage in developing what will ultimately be legislation, but we can pose some obvious issues that would need to be addressed before black boxes were provided for. What would they be used for and under what circumstances would people have access to the information on them? How would we deal with the freedom issues that they would present? What about compatibilities of standardshow would we make sure that we were reading them accurately?
In principle I agree that black boxes have merits. My own vehicle has a black box in it and I have no access to the information that it collects. That information is downloaded to the nice chaps at Alfa Romeo when I have my car serviced, and they use it for designing the next generation of Alfa Romeos, which as an Alfa Romeo owner I think is probably a good thing. What I think is a bad thing is that I have no ability to use the data, because it might advise me on how I could drive better, or how I could save fuel by amending my driving habits.
There is a whole range of things that black boxes could offer, from fuel efficiency and environmental benefits right through to accident investigation, but we are a long way from being able to specify or require them, and there would have to be a raft of debate on diverse technical and freedom issues before legislating for them. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland for beginning that debate and I look forward to continuing it, but I urge him to withdraw the new clause as it has served its purpose in initiating the debate.
Mr. Carmichael: We learn something new every day, Sir Nicholas. Apparently some cars already have black boxes, and when I get back to Shetland tomorrow I shall have a look at my car to see whether the makers of Vauxhall have afforded the same opportunity to
I am crushed that the Minister has paid so little attention to my parliamentary pronouncements on the subject of the European Union that he should think that any lack of enthusiasm in that respect on my partheresy, as some of my hon. Friends call itis somehow novel or recent.
As I indicated, and as the Minister acknowledged, the new clause was intended to start a debate. It is not my intention to press it to a vote, and with the Ministers assurance that the subject is something that the Department has in its sights, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.
New Clause 21
Road accident investigation service
(1) Within 12 months of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall by regulations establish a Road Accident Investigation Service (the service) which shall
(a) investigate the causes of road accidents particularly where they result in death or serious injury,
(b) commission and publish the results of research into the causes and consequences of road accidents, and
(c) make recommendations to the Secretary of State.
(2) Regulations under this section may provide for the organisation, operation and powers of the Service.
(3) The Secretary of State may make financial provision for the Service.
(4) The power to make regulations under this section is exercisable by statutory instrument.
(5) No regulations shall be made under this section unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.'. [Mr. Carmichael.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
New clause 21 moves on from some of the arguments advanced earlier in relation to the inclusion of vehicle data recording devices. As I said to the Committee then, the scienceand it is fair to call it a scienceof road accident investigation has moved on considerably in recent years and is a much more sophisticated branch of policing. There is now a case for the creation of a road accident investigation service, which would be akin to the marine accident investigation branch and the air accidents investigation branch. New clause 21 seeks to establish such an investigation service. Members can see from the text that this would involve investigation into
the causes of road accidents particularly where they result in death or serious injury,
and that the service would
commission and publish the results of research into the causes and consequences of road accidents.
The service would focus primarily on the more serious road accidents. One that springs to mind is that which involved the Land Rover that ran off the motorway while the driver was asleep, which ran into a train and caused multiple deaths. A degree of expertise is necessary in that instance. It would assist also in
Mr. Paterson: We already have the air accidents investigation branch. There might be some merit in creating a road accident investigation service, but we have our doubts over whether it would be cost effective. Before we give our full support, we need a lot more detail than the hon. Gentleman presented. Rather like black boxes, the subject requires further investigation. There could well be merits in it, but at this stage, a lot more work needs to be done.
Dr. Ladyman: Again, I am sure that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland intends really to stimulate debate. As the hon. Member for North Shropshire said, we have an air accidents investigation branch. Of course, thankfully, air accidents are rare. We have, as the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said, a marine accident investigation branch, and as I am responsible also for marine affairs I am pleased to say that accidents in that area are rare also. Therefore, the number of accidents that come into the remits of those bodies, so that they have to launch investigations, is relatively limited. One of the things that theycan do after investigating an accident is make recommendations on how to reduce the chances of such an accident happening again.
Of course, those agencies do not deal with quite the same situations as arise in road accidents. Road accidents result in 3,200 fatalities. I presume that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland would want all those fatalities to be investigated, so immediately we are talking about an order of magnitude and more work than faced by the other accident investigation bodies. Does he also want serious injuries to be investigated? If so, we are talking about an order of magnitude greater again. Then there is the question of what we would do with the information. To what recommendations would it lead, on which we could subsequently act?
If we are not going to investigate all deaths and serious injuries, how would we explain that to the loved ones of those whose accidents are not to be investigated? What would we do when we find someone sitting in our constituency surgery who says that such a service does not appear to value the life of their husband or wife because it is not prepared to investigate the case and does not think that anything can be learned from their loved ones death? All those issues would have to be dealt with.
In addition, we already have well laid out procedures for the investigation of accidents, particularly where deaths occur. A national road death investigation manual was produced in 2002 which sets out how investigations are to be carried out. First, the police are involved. They have to take leadership, because if fault is involved they may need to prosecute someone. The police will work closely with local authorities and other
We already do quite a lot of what the hon. Gentleman is seeking, but it may be disseminated over a large number of organisations. We might want to consider in the coming years whether the Transport Research Laboratory or the Department for Transport are bringing sufficient focus to the investigation of road accidents in order to lead to evidence-based changes in legislation or engineering. That is a worthy debate to have. In my view, we are doing that work at the moment, but perhaps we could do even more. We have to decide whether it would be cost effective to move ahead.
Mr. Knight: On many major roads we see the blue traffic monitoring cameras in use. On some motorwaysfor example, the M42cameras are in place that assist the police in detecting serious crime and vehicle fraud. Although they are not there for that purpose, have those cameras proved to be of use when accidents have been captured on film?
Dr. Ladyman: I understand that the cameras that are under the control of the police have been used for that purpose. Police cameras, which are normally used for the detection of offences, would have an evidential regime around them which would be sufficient to present in a court. The Highways Agencys cameras are there to help us in any way that is appropriate. They are there to help us to monitor congestion and to react to it. If they pick up accidents, that information is available to the Highways Agency and the engineering teams to see whether it can teach us anything about the causes.
I do not knowif the right hon. Gentleman presses this point, I will have to write to himwhether the police have ever requested footage from the Highways Agencys films to help them in prosecutions. I suspect that they have and I suspect that we would make it available if there were a properly formulated request for that information. Certainly if any information from those cameras were suitable to help people improve road safety we would want to use it, subject to the practicalities of the technology.
I hope that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland will once again accept that he has raised an issue that is worthy of further debate. This is probably not the time for legislating on it, even if we were all to agree that it is necessary. I hope that he will withdraw his new clause.
Mr. Carmichael: I was hoping that the Minister might have talked for another five minutes. I felt that as his speech progressed he warmed to the idea after his fairly lukewarm start. Of course he is absolutely right that where there is a fatality or serious injury, the bulk of the investigation is already done. He was right to
I shall not press the matter to a vote. I am pleased to have the Ministers view on the record, and as the science of road traffic investigation evolves, my proposal may become an historic inevitability. I am confident that in 10 years time a Ministerprobably not the present one, because I hope for his sake and his sanity that he will have moved onwill propose exactly that. Secure in the knowledge that history will be on my side, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.
New Clause 23
Restrictions on new drivers
(1) The Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995 (c. 13) is amended as follows.
(2) In section 1 (probationary period for newly qualified drivers), after subsection (4) insert
(5) During the course of the probationary period, the following conditions shall apply to a qualified driver
(a) he may not drive accompanied by any person under the age of 21;
(b) he may drive only a vehicle fitted with a distinguishing mark determined by regulations issued by the Secretary of State indicating that the driver is a probationary driver; and
(c) he may not drive when the proportion of alcohol in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit.
(6) The Secretary of State shall prescribe by regulations the size, nature and colour of the distinguishing sign in subsection (5)(b) above.
(7) The prescribed limit of alcohol for the purposes of section 5(iii) above is
(a) in the case of breath, 9 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres;
(b) in the case of blood, 20 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres; and
(c) in the case of urine, 27 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres.
(8) If a qualified driver drives in breach of any of the conditions set out in subsection (5), he is guilty of an offence.'.[Mr. Carmichael.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
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