Select Committee on Transport Eleventh Report


3  Priorities beyond 2010

Systems approach

48.  Those countries that have adopted the most ambitious visions for road safety have also adopted a systems approach. Rather than tackling one-off problems, the systems approach takes a more fundamental and integrated approach to designing out the possibility of deaths and serious injury. The vehicle, the road infrastructure, regulations and driver training are designed to similar safety and performance standards. For example, the speed at which airbags are operational should be compatible with the maximum speed of the vehicle.

49.  This approach is almost routine in other transport modes.[66] It has been described by safety expert James Reason as the 'Swiss cheese' approach whereby it is made almost impossible for an event to pass directly through the holes in the system and emerge as a serious accident, due to the multiple safety barriers designed to block it. This is more than just "taking a holistic approach".[67]

50.  The UK has tended to take a pragmatic, problem-solving approach to road safety, such as treating sites with accident clusters. This has had good results, but as these sites diminish, more difficult, diffuse problems remain. These require a different approach.

51.  The systems approach to road safety, now adopted by the Netherlands, Sweden and elsewhere is different to that pursued by the UK. We believe that it is time for the UK to move towards this more fundamental approach which is accepted for other transport modes. The Department for Transport needs to explore this approach further and to engage the public in a discussion of the ideas and implications.

Roads

52.  The UK's roads are some of the busiest in Europe.[68] Part of the difficulty of reducing casualties and improving the safety of places where people live and work is due to the density of our population and the historic road network that brings heavy traffic into close proximity with pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users. Many city streets and rural roads are simply not designed for the volumes of traffic they now carry.[69]

53.  The Eddington study showed the benefit of roads investment to the economy.[70] Some aspects of the UK's performance on road safety are weak due to inadequate investment in transport infrastructure. More investment is needed in the road network to take unsuitable traffic out of residential areas and to reduce the serious casualty toll on some rural roads. However, diverting road safety budgets to new road building would not be the most cost-effective way of reducing casualties.

54.  Local highway authorities have been effective at treating locations where accidents have clustered. Because of their success there are now fewer treatable sites, and those that remain often require more costly treatment to save a smaller number of accidents. More systematic approaches to improving the safety of our road infrastructure are needed to reduce the possibility of death or injury occurring.

55.  Whilst some casualties are the result of deliberate recklessness or rule-breaking by road users, many are the result of momentary lapses of concentration or a coincidence of events:

We can no longer say in the future that we are just looking for violators. Half, if not more, of our problem is related to people like you and me having a crash. […] That is why we are in favour of something like a "forgiving road" - forgiving of your errors.[71]

56.  A disproportionate percentage of collisions and fatal or severe injuries occur on rural roads. Progress with tackling these accidents has been disappointing.[72] The Road Safety Foundation claims that investing in the 'forgiving' engineering measures would yield first-year rates of return of 300%.[73] The Minister has expressed guarded support.[74] There are issues to resolve, such as the visual impact on the environment, and the capacity of the road safety engineering profession to deliver these schemes. There may also be questions about the priorities: should money be spent on protecting road users from their own mistakes, such as drivers colliding with road-side objects; or should it be spent on protecting road users (particularly vulnerable road users) from risks imposed by other road users?

57.  The emphasis needs to shift from treating localised problems to one of long-term improvements to the safety of the infrastructure. At the same time, it is essential that a multi-disciplinary approach is taken to ensure that safety measures are compatible with a good quality local environment.

58.  The safety benefits of lower speeds—20 mph or below in residential areas, town centres and around schools—have long been recognised by the Department for Transport. Progress has been made with tackling inappropriate speed and many areas have been traffic calmed, with 30 mph or 20 mph limits. Yet this has been a slow and expensive process and, although effective in engineering terms, they have rarely enhanced the attractiveness of our streets in the way that schemes in other countries have done.[75] Britain has lacked boldness and the pace of change has also been slow. The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia introduced 10,000 home-zones by 1991 and Graz (Austria) made the whole city 20 mph in 1992.[76] These things have been achieved in only a handful of UK towns and cities, such as Hull and Portsmouth. The charity Sustrans has pioneered "Do it Yourself Streets"[77] which, according to Mr Voce, have proved effective for a fraction of the cost of conventional home zones.[78] However, these are isolated initiatives.

59.  Much wider use of 20-mph limits is supported by groups representing vulnerable user and by many other organisations who presented evidence to our inquiry. The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) recommends 20 mph as the default speed limit in all built-up areas.[79]

60.  Ways must be found to satisfy the desires of local communities for safer streets. We recommend that local authorities be given the powers and resources to introduce 20-mph limits much more widely. Flexibility is required to avoid the prohibitive costs associated with some approaches. The balance of engineering measures, technology, policing and community influence should be a local matter. Systems, however, must not rely on high levels of fines or draconian enforcement.

Vehicles

61.  The driving environment is likely to be very different in ten years' time. Climate change policies, higher oil prices, an ageing and increasing population, security considerations, and many other factors may become increasingly influential.

62.  Future vehicles are likely to incorporate many new technologies, possibly including intelligent speed limiters, automatic crash avoidance, and even driverless cars.[80] We considered some of these in our Report Cars of the future.[81] Some vehicles are already fitted with systems such as electronic vehicle stabilisation, data-recorders and pre-ignition breath tests ('alcolocks'). These and other technologies could play a significant role in reducing casualties.[82]

63.  Most of the new technologies are market-driven. Motor manufacturers and technology specialists are understandably keen to promote them, not least because they can give new cars a commercial advantage. The motor industry is frustrated that technologies that might save lives are not more readily adopted because of additional costs to the driver.[83]

64.  Professor Oliver Carsten of Leeds University points out that independent evaluation of these technologies, often carried out at EU level, has sometimes been "remarkably thin" and that "reliance on the vehicle manufacturers to promote new systems may not lead to the most beneficial deployment path in safety terms".[84] We welcome the publication by the Department of the research into intelligent speed adaptation (ISA).[85] However, we are disappointed that the Government is reluctant to take a lead on this issue by, for example, requiring the fitting of ISA in its own vehicle fleet. While consumer pressure is important, the suggestion that a significant safety feature can be left to the market leaves open the conclusion that the Government is not taking safety seriously.

65.  The safety benefits of new technologies do not always materialise in practice as road users may not respond to them as hoped. Initial research into the implementation of anti-lock braking found that cars with ABS continued to be involved in as many accidents as those without. However, that position improved as the technology became more prevalent within the car fleet.

66.  The Government should take a more proactive approach to determining the safety benefits of new vehicle technologies. It should make clear which ones it believes have most safety benefits and encourage their adoption into the UK vehicle fleet. The Government should use the various tools at its disposal, including fiscal and financial incentives, to encourage employers to use vehicles with additional proven safety features. Government departments and agencies should also give a lead in their fleet purchasing decisions. This would help to reduce work-related casualties and speed up the adoption of these features into the wider UK vehicle fleet.

Young drivers

67.  The continuing challenge of young drivers is clear. In 2005, there were 1,077 road deaths in crashes involving a driver aged between 17 and 25. Of the dead, 377 were drivers in that age group. Young drivers, especially those under 20 years of age, are nearly 12 times more likely than those aged 35-65 to have caused a fatal accident than to have been innocently involved in one.[86]

68.  Young men are disproportionately more involved in the most serious traffic offences. In 2004, of 384 findings of guilt for causing death or bodily harm, 25% were male drivers under the age of 21. 33% of those found guilty of dangerous driving were males under 21.[87]

69.  The safety of young and novice drivers is of great concern to us and others.[88] It was the subject of an earlier report by the Committee[89] and of two Westminster Hall[90] debates this year. The Government has responded with its consultation document, Learning to Drive.[91] This proposes additional steps prior to fully qualifying as a driver but does not accept any of the restrictions on young drivers, such as a ban on carrying passengers that we recommended in our Report on Novice Drivers.[92] It is unlikely that any changes proposed in Learning to Drive could be adopted before 2011. When and by how much this might lead to a reduction in young drivers involved in serious accidents is uncertain.[93] The proposals place a great deal of faith in improved training overcoming what some witnesses see as genetically-programmed "caveman tendencies" in young men.[94]

70.  The links between deprivation, acquiring a licence, affording vehicle insurance, and unsafe driving came through strongly in the evidence that we heard.[95] This is a complex area, much of it outside the remit of the Department for Transport. The Fire and Rescue Service, for example, plays an increasing role in road safety for young people who are not in education or training.[96] Our witnesses were clear that this was a vital area to tackle, through a multi-agency approach, from both the road safety perspective and that of tackling wider social issues.[97] This might include organisations such as the Road Haulage Association which suggests that lorry drivers could provide positive role models.[98]

71.  There are clear links between uninsured and unlicensed driving, and crash involvement. A twin-track approach is needed. The Government should encourage greater partnership working at local level to prevent offending by young people. At the same time, greater levels of enforcement are needed to prevent uninsured and unlicensed driving. The Committee recommends the Department for Transport identify projects of this type that have been successful and disseminate these more widely.

72.  We do not wish to stigmatise young drivers. The dice are often loaded against them: not only are they less experienced but they also tend to drive older, smaller and less well-protected vehicles.[99] They drive more at night and with passengers who may distract them. The fact remains, however, that young drivers - particularly young male drivers - represent a disproportionate risk to road users, including themselves and those travelling with them.

73.  Whilst we welcome the Government's move to raise driving standards we have some concerns. Firstly, the proposals do not address the urgency or gravity of the situation. The scale of casualty reduction that Learning to drive will achieve is unclear and benefits will be long-term at best. The proposals are most unlikely to have an immediate impact in the way that restrictions on carrying passengers would do. Secondly, despite the Minister's assurances, we believe there is a risk that the cost of acquiring a driving licence will rise and thereby exclude significant numbers of people, thereby reducing social inclusion and encouraging unlicensed driving.[100]

74.  We are also unconvinced by the Government's contention that, under the proposed scheme, newly-qualified drivers will be as competent as experienced drivers. We believe there will inevitably be a post-qualification period in which further valuable experience is gained and that some restrictions on newly-qualified drivers are both justified and reasonable. These would reflect not only the driver's reduced experience but also the higher levels of risk, responsibility and distraction that young drivers often face.

75.  We support the Government's efforts to revise the driver training system and to place greater emphasis on attitudes and behaviours as well as driving skills. The proposals in Learning to Drive are steps in the right direction, but we are not confident that they will be sufficient to arrest the carnage of young drivers on our roads. We recommend that the Government takes bolder and more urgent steps to cut the number of collisions involving young drivers, particularly young men. We urge that it reconsiders its response to our recommendations in Novice Drivers regarding a graduated licensing scheme and, in particular (p36), restrictions on young drivers carrying teenage passengers between the hours of 11pm and 5am.

76.  Some councils see pedestrian and cycle training as a valuable precursor to learning to drive. Nottingham City Council is preparing to pilot LifeCycle - a structured cycle training programme for children from the age of five until they become competent to take part in Cycling England's Bikeability courses. The council anticipates that early and then staged interventions are likely to produce a more risk averse, disciplined future adult vehicle user.[101]

77.  More link-up is needed between the various road safety education programmes. It is disappointing that, in a relatively wide-ranging review of driver training, the Government has not consulted on the possibility of strengthening links between driver training, and pedestrian and cyclist training in the ways that some local authorities are doing. We recommend that the Department for Transport and the Department for Children, Schools and Families consider ways in which a range of road-user training schemes might be targeted at school students of the appropriate ages.

Vulnerable road users

Motorcyclists

78.  The substantial rise in the number of motorcyclist deaths stands out in stark contrast to the reduction in deaths for all other road user groups. On current trends motorcyclist deaths will soon exceed pedestrian deaths. The casualty rate for motorcyclists (in terms of deaths per 100,000 kilometres travelled) is over 40 times that for car users (Table 3).

79.  The Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) told us that other European countries, which have higher rates of motorcycle use, have lower motorcycle collision rates because drivers are more aware of motorcyclists. MAG believes that up to the mid-1990s motorcyclists were given no official consideration but progress is now being made "[…] with the Government's Motorcycling Strategy and with more local authorities beginning to think seriously about motorcycling [but] we are way behind the game."[102] The Government has set up a national advisory committee and is working with a range of interests to ensure that motorcycling is seen as a central part of road safety policy.[103]

80.  We have previously drawn attention to the dreadful motorcyclist casualty rate and we have called for radical action.[104] The various parties now recognise the issue and seem to be working together on the problem. However, the statistics show how much remains to be done.

81.  We recommend that the Government redoubles its efforts to improve the safety of motorcyclists and to ensure that their safety is seen as central to its road safety strategy. This needs to be communicated effectively to all parties involved with road safety.

82.  The causes of motorcyclist accidents and remedial measures need to be thoroughly investigated and the results communicated to road safety professionals, motorcyclists and other road users.

Child pedestrians and cyclists

83.  The view of many of our witnesses was that the UK's record on the safety of child pedestrians and cyclists was disappointing.[105] This is confirmed by the Government's own assessment.[106] The significant reductions in child deaths, particularly in the past few years, show encouraging progress, although some of this appears to be due to increased restrictions on children's mobility, which might in turn have negative consequences such as increased child obesity.

84.  It is also clear that cosseting children from traffic and depriving them of the opportunity to learn about risks and road skills is not a sensible or responsible approach. In many cases, this merely defers the danger to later in the child's life. Mr Armstrong of Living Streets highlighted how the incidence of serious accidents suffered by children doubles between the ages of 10 and 11 years. Living Streets believes this to be because many primary school children are driven to school but then travel independently to secondary school, without having had the opportunity to develop adequate road safety skills.[107] There are other good reasons why children need independent mobility and physical activity, including preventing obesity and developing as confident, independent young people. The Government has recognised this in its Fair Play strategy launched in April 2008.[108]

85.  The fatality rates for child pedestrians and child cyclists in 24 countries are shown in Table 4. As the amount of cycling varies considerably across countries, the combined pedestrian-cyclist fatality rate probably best describes the safety of child road-users. Great Britain is ranked 9th and the UK is 11th. The safety of children in Northern Ireland is particularly poor, with only the Republic of Korea (South Korea) having a worse death rate.

86.  We have noted earlier the strong links between deprivation and child casualties. Dr Christie was clear that the most important measures needed in poorer areas were improvements to the local environment to calm traffic and to create safer places for children to play. Involving the local community and strengthening neighbourhood policing are also important.[109]

87.  It is important to distinguish between casualty reduction and danger reduction: the absence of death or injury does not necessarily imply a safe environment. Professor Whitelegg of Liverpool John Moores University was critical of dangers faced by vulnerable road users in the UK, particularly child pedestrians and cyclists. Other European countries, such as Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, have gone much further than the UK in adapting their urban areas for safer walking and cycling. Dutch children spend around half their pedestrian time in traffic-calmed streets compared with only 10% in England.[110] Mr Sinclair of Help the Aged said that both older as well as young people benefited from safe, well designed communities.[111]Table 4: International child fatality rates 2005
  Deaths per 100,000 population
Country

Ranked by combined fatality rate

Pedestrians
aged 0-14
Cyclists aged 0-14
Combined
Iceland
0.00
0.00
0.00
Norway
0.11
0.00
0.11
Sweden
0.19
0.06
0.25
Canada
0.37
0.04
0.40
France
0.35
0.11
0.46
Switzerland
0.33
0.25
0.58
Denmark
0.29
0.29
0.59
Spain
0.43
0.19
0.61
Great Britain
0.54
0.14
0.68
New Zealand
0.57
0.11
0.68
Germany
0.35
0.34
0.70
United Kingdom
0.56
0.17
0.72
Japan
0.46
0.30
0.75
Netherlands
0.27
0.50
0.76
United States of America
0.56
0.21
0.77
Republic of Ireland
0.93
0.00
0.93
Portugal
0.61
0.36
0.97
Austria
0.76
0.23
0.99
Greece
0.69
0.31
1.00
Belgium
0.50
0.56
1.06
Slovenia
0.71
0.35
1.06
Czech Republic
0.79
0.33
1.11
Finland
0.77
0.66
1.42
Poland
1.10
0.40
1.50
Northern Ireland
1.13
0.85
1.97
Republic of Korea
2.10
0.23
2.33


Source: Department for Transport 2008 (requested by the Committee)

88.  The UK is unusual in not having compulsory road safety education in schools.[112] The Department for Transport has been supporting the development of 'Kerbcraft' pedestrian training and, more recently, 'Bikeability' cycle training. Both these initiatives are welcome, though long overdue. The amount of formal pedestrian or cyclist training is increasing although there seems to be a lack of awareness about the extent to which they are being delivered.[113] We recognise the important role that parents play in training their children to be safe road users but this needs to be supported with more formal training.

89.  It is unsatisfactory that so few children are given pedestrian or cycle training at school. Whereas there is a plethora of statistics on school-related matters, the percentage of children receiving road safety training is not monitored. We welcome the Department for Transport's support for Kerbcraft and, more recently, for Bikeability training. However, the Government should frame its targets in terms of the percentage, rather than the absolute number, of children in the target age group to be trained. The timescales for implementing these schemes must be reduced; and they should be properly monitored and supported with long-term resources to ensure that they are available to all children. We recommend that the Government investigates the effects that the compulsory wearing of cycle helmets by children would have on casualties.

90.  Many organisations are involved with various forms of road safety, publicity, education and training for young people. These include the Red Cross,[114] Fire and Rescue Service, Police and local authority road safety officers. The variety of organisations and approaches is a strength but it is not clear that these efforts are coordinated to best effect.

91.  We note that there is a wealth of educational materials aimed at pre-school and primary age youngsters. However, we are concerned that similar efforts have not been made to produce material for pupils in secondary school. We believe that there needs to be a more co-ordinated approach to the provision of such materials and a consolidated approach to risk education across the age range.

Other vulnerable road users

92.  The daily lives of many vulnerable road users are affected by safety issues that do not appear in the mainstream road safety statistics. These may not involve dramatic collisions but they can still lead to injury and even death.

93.  According to a survey by Help the Aged, some 2.5 million people aged over 65 have fallen on damaged or uneven pavements in 2007. Of those, one third had to visit a hospital as a result, at a cost of around £1 billion to the NHS.[115] Poor quality pavements are also particularly hazardous to visually-impaired pedestrians.[116] Poor road surfaces are estimated to cause 7% of cyclist casualties.[117] These appear in hospital casualty statistics but only rarely in the STATS19 data. The CSS highlighted "increasing concern amongst local highway authorities about the level of funding for road maintenance, not just for ensuring the structural integrity of the network, but to maintain safety standards."[118]

94.  The British Horse Society is also concerned that the extent of collisions involving horses and vehicles is not reflected in the STATS19 statistics. The Society estimates that at least 3,000 road accidents every year involve horses but only those in which a person is injured are recorded, regardless of the injury to the horse. It is seeking better monitoring in official statistics and greater awareness by drivers of horses.[119]

95.  Elsewhere in this Report, we have identified the apparent mismatch between data sets in terms of the number of actual casualties compared with those recorded. We believe that it is important for local highway authorities to have as accurate a picture as possible of the number of people killed or injured in their area and of the costs of preventing these injuries. We encourage these authorities to gather and publish such information in addition to the STATS19 data.

96.  As cycling increases, there are concerns about the behaviour of some cyclists, particularly adults, who evidently have not received adequate cycle training, if any. They pose a risk to themselves and sometimes to others. We recommend that cycle training should be offered as an alternative to fines for offending cyclists, just as driver retraining courses are now commonly offered to motorists who commit minor traffic offences.

Older drivers

97.  There are now more older drivers, who are driving further. Between 1995 and 2005, people aged over 70 increased the average distance that they drove by 65%. Many organisations who provided evidence stated that older drivers should be a priority for a future road safety strategy.

98.  PACTS describes the issues as follows:

The implications of these travel patterns for road safety in an ageing population are profound. Although there is little evidence of an increase in the incidence of road traffic accidents, older people are more fragile than their younger counterparts - they injure more easily, their injuries are more severe and heal less quickly. Compared with drivers aged 20-50 years, older people's fragility increases their risk of fatal injury by 1.75 times for drivers aged 60+, by 2.6 times at 70 and by over 5 times for drivers aged 80 and above.

People aged 60+ account for:

99.  There was a consensus among witnesses that mobility was extremely important to older people and should not be curtailed without good cause. There was also consensus that compulsory retesting or other age-related measures were not justified and might well be illegal on age discrimination grounds. Issues regarding efficacy of the self-reporting system and the responsibility of doctors to report patients who are unfit to drive were raised but these are not age-related.

100.  Mr Wegman recommended that driving and the road environment should be made simpler and more 'forgiving', rather than general restrictions on the rights to drive for older drivers.[121]

101.  We recognise the vulnerability of older drivers and their increasing numbers. We do not believe that automatic, mandatory retesting of drivers above a certain age is justified. We favour the more positive approach of simplifying the driving task and protecting drivers from the more serious consequences of their errors. Making walking and public transport more attractive to older people, with initiatives such as 20-mph limits and accessible vehicles, should also be encouraged. Schemes to provide assistance to older drivers are also to be encouraged.

Mobility scooters

102.  Mobility scooters (defined in law as "invalid carriages") are becoming increasingly common. Depending on its class, a mobility scooter may be used on pavements at up to 4 mph or on the road at up to 8 mph. There is no legal requirement to undertake training or to pass a test before using one.[122]

103.  Various issues have arisen about their interaction with pedestrians and other road users. ROSPA has received calls from people concerned about being nearly knocked down by mobility scooters.[123] Bus drivers have reported being delayed by mobility scooters in bus lanes.[124] The press have also highlighted incidents.[125] However, Mr Sinclair of Help the Aged said that it was an issue that scarcely arose and he thought it was largely a creation of the media. There was general agreement that reliable statistics were sparse. The Minister said that it was not an issue that crossed his desk and the view of the Government is that such statistics that do exist do not indicate a safety problem.[126]

104.  We recommend that the Government urgently review the increasing use and safety of mobility scooters with a view to establishing whether safety guidelines or mandatory training would be beneficial.

Driving at work

105.  The number of work-related road deaths is estimated at between one quarter and one third of all road deaths. (This excludes commuter deaths, on the journey to or from work.) On this basis, in 2007, approximately 750-1,000 road deaths were work-related. By comparison, the Health and Safety Executive reported that there were 228 fatal injuries to workers in 2007-08 in "traditional" workplaces.[127] It is clear that, for many people, the greatest risk of being involved in a fatal accident at work is when they are using the roads.

106.  The reluctance of the Government and the Health and Safety Commission to involve the Health and Safety Executive more fully in road safety had been criticised previously.[128] Although some progress has been made, ROSPA, PACTS and others feel that there is still a vital role for the Health and Safety Executive to play.[129]

107.  The safety record of professional drivers is generally good but the union Unite has shown the problems of tiredness and fatigue that can arise, particularly on long shifts and night-time working.[130]

108.  We have described above (see Vehicles) the sorts of technologies that are increasingly available to reduce road casualties. These could make a major difference to work-related deaths and help to introduce safer vehicles into the wider UK car fleet.

109.  The Government should work with employers' organisations and trades unions on the issue of work-related road accidents, including an evaluation of its Driving for Better Business initiative. It should use the tools at its disposal, including fiscal and financial incentives, to encourage employers to use vehicles with additional proven safety features. This would help to reduce work-related casualties and speed the adoption of these features into the wider UK vehicle fleet.

110.  It is anomalous that the vast majority of work-related deaths are not examined by the Health and Safety Executive, purely because they occur on the roads. The Government should review the role of the Health and Safety Executive with regard to road safety to ensure that it fulfils its unique role in the strategy beyond 2010.

Drinking and driving

111.  There has been no progress in reducing casualties from drink-drive accidents. The numbers of deaths (460) is now exactly as it was in 1998.[131] In the intervening years it rose to 580. As the total number of road deaths has decreased, drink drive deaths have become a larger percentage of the total - some 16% in 2007. Although 2007 saw a fall in drink-drive deaths there was an overall increase in drink-drive accidents.

112.  The analysis by TRL in 2007 identified drink-drive casualties as a policy area where progress had not been made in accordance with the Government's road safety strategy. The assumption was that the drink-drive limit would be lowered in line with other European countries and that enforcement levels would be maintained. In the event, the limit was not lowered and the numbers of drink-drive tests fell during the early years of this millennium (although recently they have risen).

113.  Enforcement of drink driving offences is a matter for Chief Police officers and is therefore outside the direct control of the Department for Transport. Enforcement levels have varied over time and across police forces. Roads policing has not been a priority for the Home Office over the past decade and this remains the case.[132]

114.  The UK drink drive limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Most other European countries have a lower blood alcohol limit than the UK (typically 50mg/100ml), though the penalties are less severe at the lower end of the scale. According to the Association of Chief Police Officers the UK is isolated with the highest blood alcohol limit in Europe. "It is seen by our European neighbours as condoning drink driving."[133] The Association of Chief Police Officers also identifies the serious issue of driving whilst under the influence of illegal drugs.

115.  Many groups have called for greater enforcement and a reduction in the blood alcohol limit as a part of a strategy to reduce drink driving. "RAC would support a reduction in the UK drink-drive limit to 50mg per 100ml of blood in line with other EU countries. In addition, RAC believes such a reduction should be accompanied by increased detection and continued focus on the most serious offenders."[134]

116.  Even some of those organisations which have traditionally opposed a reduction are changing their position in recognition of support by drivers for lower limits. Over two-thirds of Automobile Association members support a reduction in the legal limit and the Automobile Association has now changed its position to one of 'not objecting' to a reduction.[135] Among our witnesses, only the Association of British Drivers, a much smaller organisation, still opposes a reduction.[136]

117.  There appears to be a growing consensus[137] that the limit should be reduced from 80mg/100ml to 50mg/100ml which is the standard in most other European countries. Whereas, at present, drivers might think they can consume one or two alcoholic drinks and remain under the limit, the lower level would make it clear that "none for the road" was the only option. It would not, however, penalise those drivers who had consumed very small amounts of alcohol, say in a liqueur chocolate. The lower limit would require a more graduated penalty regime. It would provide the opportunity to simplify and relaunch the anti-drink-driving campaign which seems to have lost its impact. It would need to be adequately resourced and given appropriate priority by the Home Office.

118.  We understand that the Department is to shortly consult on proposals to address the problem of drink-drive collisions. As in our report on Novice Drivers, we welcome this much-needed investigation and look forward to a thorough examination of what should be the permitted blood alcohol concentration for drivers. Should our recommendation for a lower alcohol limit for novice drivers be implemented, this would provide further useful evidence on the impact of a lower alcohol limit for drivers in general.

119.  It is unacceptable that such a major element of the Government's road safety strategy can be given such a low priority by a key department. It is imperative that the Home Office gives much higher priority to enforcement of drink-drive and drug-drive offences. This should include the type-approval of roadside evidential breath-testing devices and development of equipment to assist the police to identify and prosecute drug-impaired drivers.

Enforcement

120.  There are strong links between criminal behaviour and road safety.[138] Unlicensed, uninsured and untaxed driving, dangerous driving, drink driving and excessive speed are all strongly linked with road casualties. Witnesses from opposite ends of the road safety spectrum, including the Association of British Drivers and Brake, have called for more roads policing, as indeed we have previously.[139] We were pleased to hear the Minister agree with us that there should be more roads policing.[140] However, the powers to influence these matters lie elsewhere in Government.

121.  We were shocked to hear that, in some parts of the country, including areas of Bradford, an estimated 57% of resident vehicles are being driven uninsured, leading to significant social problems and dangers on the streets.[141] These figures are compiled by the Motor Insurers' Bureau and are available to the local authorities and police.

122.  It was also disconcerting to hear that, having purchased enforcement equipment for police to use, the local authorities in West Yorkshire have to pay the police overtime to use it because the police performance framework does not allow the police to use it in normal police time.[142]

123.  There has been an increase in the seizure and crushing of untaxed or unlicensed vehicles by VOSA and the police in the past year or so. Some 150,000 vehicles were impounded by the authorities in 2007. There is some indication that the significant reduction in deaths in 2007 may be partly due to the increase in seizure of untaxed or unlicensed vehicles.[143]

124.  The connections between unlicensed, untaxed or uninsured vehicles, crime and anti-social behaviour, and road safety need to be more widely acted upon. We welcome the recent increase in enforcement activity by VOSA. This must be continued and consistently applied in all areas. The lack of congruity between the priorities of the Home Office and the Department for Transport on road safety continues to be of great concern to us.


66   Ev 153  Back

67   Q 411  Back

68   Q 223  Back

69   Ev 143 Back

70   Department for Transport The Eddington Transport Study, December 2006 Back

71   Q 224 [Mr Wegman] Back

72   Department for Transport, Second Review of the Government's Road Safety Strategy, February 2007. Published jointly with the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly Government. Back

73   Mr J Dawson, Chairman of the Campaign for Safer Road Design at the campaign launch, House of Lords, 8 July 2008. Back

74   Jim Fitzpatrick MP: Speech at the launch of the Road Safety Foundation's Campaign for Safer Road Design, House of Lords, 8 July 2008.  Back

75   Ev 179 Back

76   Q 205 [Professor Whitelegg] Back

77   www.sustrans.org.uk/diystreets Back

78   Q 317 [Mr Voce] Back

79   PACTS, Beyond 2010 - a holistic approach to road safety in Great Britain, 2007, p33. The Director of PACTS, Robert Gifford, is a Specialist Adviser to this Committee and has contributed to its work on this inquiry. Back

80   Ev 278, 312 Back

81   Transport Committee, Seventeenth Report of Session 2003-04, Cars of the Future, HC 319, 8 November 2004 Back

82   Ev 143 Back

83   Ev 312 Back

84   Ev 243 Back

85   Carsten, O et al, Intelligent Speed Adaptation, Department for Transport, 15 September 2008 Back

86   Department for Transport, Second Review of the Government's Road Safety Strategy, February 2007. Published jointly with the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly Government, p18-19 Back

87   Department for Transport, Tomorrow's Roads - safer for everyone: The first three year review, April 2004. Published jointly with the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly Government. Back

88   Ev 156 Back

89   Transport Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2006-07, Novice Drivers, HC 355, 11 July 2007  Back

90   On 7 February 2008 and 16 July 2008.  Back

91   Department for Transport, Learning to Drive - a consultation paper, 7 May 2008 Back

92   The Report recommended that the Government:

evaluate the enforceability of two blood alcohol concentration limits: one for novice drivers, one for the general driving population; (Paragraph 109)

reduce the permitted blood alcohol concentration from 0.8g/l to zero (or 0.2g/l) for novice drivers; and tackle drink-driving through ongoing publicity and enforcement campaigns targeted at all drivers; (Paragraph 110)

prohibit novice drivers from carrying any passengers aged 10-20 years, between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.; (Paragraph 113)

undertake research on what combination of restrictions in a graduated driver licensing system would be most effective in reducing road death and injury among novice drivers, but not delay implementation. (Paragraph 115) Back

93   Q 385  Back

94   Ev 283 Back

95   Q 43 [Dr Christie] Back

96   Q 175 [Mr Smith] Back

97   Q 104 [Ms Ward] Back

98   Ev 256 Back

99   Q 88  Back

100   Qq 421-423 Back

101   Ev 326 Back

102   Q 244 [Mr Brown] Back

103   Q 435 Back

104   Transport Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2006-07, The Government's Motorcycling Strategy, HC 264, 29 March 2007 Back

105   Q 10  Back

106   Department for Transport, DfT Child Road Safety Strategy, February 2007, paras 53-55 Back

107   Q 315 [Mr Armstrong] Back

108   The Guardian, "Risky play prepare kids for life", 6 August 2008 Back

109   Qq 17-20 Back

110   Ev 175 Back

111   Q 315 [Mr Sinclair] Back

112   Christie, N et al Children's road traffic safety: an international survey of policy and practice. Road Research Report No.47. Department for Transport, 2004 Back

113   Q 194; Q 389  Back

114   Ev 122 Back

115   Q 321 Back

116   Ev 203 Back

117   Information provided by CTC based on survey of 923 cyclists, October 2008. Back

118   Ev 324 Back

119   Ev 196 Back

120   PACTS, op.cit., p 44 Back

121   Q 228 [Mr Wegman] Back

122   Ev 80 Back

123   Q 196  Back

124   Q 300 [Mr Sealey] Back

125   The Guardian "Mobility scooter rider caught on 70mph dual carriageway", 6 August 2008; In August 2008 mobility scooters were banned from the Tyne and Wear Metro after two serious accidents. Back

126   Q 377 Back

127   HSE website July 2008: www.hse.gov.uk/statistics Back

128   Work and Pensions Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2003-04, The Work of the Health and Safety Commission and Executive, HC 456 Back

129   Q 154 Back

130   Ev 319 Back

131   Department for Transport, Road Casualties Great Britain 2007: Annual Report, September 2008, Table 3a Back

132   Ev 239 Back

133   Ev 239 Back

134   Ev 197 Back

135   Qq 307-308 Back

136   Ev 139 Back

137   Qq 307-308  Back

138   Broughton, J, The correlation between motoring offences and other types of offence. TRL Report TRL650, 2006 Back

139   Transport Committee, Tenth Report of Session 2005-06, Roads Policing and Technology: Getting the right balance, HC 975, 31 October 2006 Back

140   Q 409  Back

141   Qq 188-193 Back

142   Q 185 [Mr Thornton] Back

143   Qq 415, 435 Back


 
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