Publications on the internet
Transport Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 506
Taken before the Transport Committee
on Tuesday 17 January 2012
Mrs Louise Ellman (Chair)
Mr Tom Harris
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Quentin Willson, Writer and Commentator, Nick Starling, Director of General Insurance, Association of British Insurers, Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research, Institute of Advanced Motorists, and Edmund King, President, Automobile Association, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Good morning, gentlemen. Welcome to the Transport Select Committee. I would like to start by asking you to give your name and organisation, if you are representing an organisation. This is to help our records.
Edmund King: I am Edmund King. I am President of the Automobile Association and a visiting Professor of Transport at Newcastle university.
Quentin Willson: I am Quentin Willson, motoring journalist and creator of the "Worst Driver" television format, which goes out in 60 different countries.
Nick Starling: I am Nick Starling. I am Director of General Insurance at the Association of British Insurers.
Neil Greig: I am Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
Q2 Chair: One of the issues that are being debated about the Government’s proposals is their stated intention not to have targets in relation to road safety. Do any of you have views on that? How important do you think the absence of targets is? I know some of you have referred to this in written evidence. Is there any point you would like to raise? Mr King, do you want to say anything on that?
Edmund King: Our view is that road safety targets in the past have worked very effectively. Unlike in some other spheres of Government policy, we do not think that the targets have distorted policy because that has been one of the general arguments. But, when you have targets for casualty and fatality reductions, it helps to concentrate the mind and in terms of leadership. Certainly, within our own company, the AA, we have targets that we strive to achieve. If after six months you are not on target, you review and question why, and change your policies. In road safety, it is important to have overall targets but then to have sub-targets as well. For example, the previous Government had a sub-target for young drivers.
There is possibly a case now for having a sub-target for older drivers, with an ageing population. Targets can help to concentrate the mind.
The current Government talk more about a framework with outcomes. Of course outcomes are very important-the outcome of having the safest roads in the world and so on-but, to get to that outcome, you need targets to help you on the way. Outcome can be a very general aspiration, whereas a target helps to focus the mind. Particularly if you are decentralising and giving more powers to local authorities to carry out their own road safety policies, it is perhaps more rather than less important to have targets.
Q3 Chair: Would anyone else like to comment on the targets issue?
Quentin Willson: I would agree that the previous Government’s road safety targets have been beneficial. We have seen a significant decline in killed and serious injuries. Fatalities are down to the lowest levels since records began. In 2010 there were 1,854 deaths. The ultimate target is zero casualties, but whether that is achievable or not is another question.
We should look at targets for initiatives for road safety. We should carry on with having casualty reduction, but we also need to roll out as many road safety initiatives this year, next year and the year after that as we can to drive forward a complete cultural and behavioural change in the way we drive, as Edmund says. I believe that targets are extremely necessary, but we need to start looking at a way of targeting our initiatives and our lateral thinking towards road safety in the UK.
Q4 Chair: Do you think that it is the Government’s responsibility to pursue those initiatives or is it to do with local government or any other sector?
Quentin Willson: The big joined-up strategy of road safety-the really clever, smart thinking about how we protect people from themselves-must, ipso facto, come from the Government. We have reached a plateau now where we need to look at what is new, bright and clever to reduce casualties and serious injuries on our roads. I would worry very much that, if we devolve too much responsibility to local councils, that consistency of message gets diluted or, dare I say it, spoilt by well-intentioned and laudable initiatives at a local level.
This is a time for us all to say that we can change people’s view of good driving and make bad driving socially unacceptable, make it stupid and point fun at bad drivers. To do that, you need a strong strategy that comes from central Government which is then backed up at a local level. But the local level must be given the same tone of voice and the same consistency of communication-and here is the key word-to engage motoring consumers and make them change their behaviour. Without engaging them, you will never get them to take part in any initiatives and to protect themselves and their loved ones. We need to talk in a different language with a different tone across the whole of society. That must come, I believe, from central Government.
Q5 Chair: Are there any other views on targets?
Nick Starling: We think good targets work. These targets have worked, though, as you will know from another inquiry, Madam Chairman, the insurance industry has not seen the reduction in accidents that has happened elsewhere because of the personal injury problems that happen.
First of all, targets are good because they encourage best practice and accountability. If one local authority is meeting targets and another one is not, you can sit there and say, "Why is one working and why is one not?" They do work. Bad targets distort; good targets encourage. We would support that.
Picking up on the latter point you made, it is for Government to give direction on all of this, but it is for everyone to be part of the solution, and the insurance industry is part of the solution. If we want to tackle the big issues like young drivers, it takes leadership from Government but it takes others to play their part in helping to solve the problem.
Q6 Chair: Mr Greig, in your written evidence you talk about the importance of targets. Do you think that is as important as you have stated there?
Neil Greig: Yes; we share the view that these targets have worked. They have brought organisations together. The police, the NHS and Safety Camera Partnerships have all used that common target to bring their policies together. But we also question the assertion that it has stifled innovation. I have no evidence that I can see that innovation has been stifled in road safety because of targets. It is quite the opposite. Targets have galvanised local initiatives of all different sorts. There is a vast amount of work going on out there. With Prince Michael of Kent, I run safety awards, for example. We get a vast amount of new initiatives every year. The innovation is there and the targets brought that all together. They did work for road safety.
Q7 Paul Maynard: I want to stick with targets, please. I am struck by the extent to which everybody’s evidence seems to regard this road safety strategy as hanging or falling on whether there should be targets or not, which rather struck me as a case of lazy thinking on the part of the road safety community. I wanted to ask your view on whether you think it is possible to have an indicator which is meaningful but which is not an official Government target.
Edmund King: You can, but isn’t that just semantics? Whether it is an indicator or a target, the end game is to reduce casualties. By having a target, it concentrates the mind. What you call it is possibly semantics, isn’t it?
Q8 Paul Maynard: That is why I was referring to lazy thinking. Why is a culture of continuous improvement not the equivalent of a target? Surely that is what the Government are aiming for.
Edmund King: Because it helps to concentrate the mind. In business we could say to staff, "You should have a culture of continuous improvement". But, if at the staff’s annual review you are basing that on some loose philosophy of how the company is going, it is not quite as effective as saying, "You haven’t actually met your targets. Can you explain it?"
Q9 Paul Maynard: In a previous answer you suggested that having targets in road safety was not distorting. Can I challenge you on that? If one of your key performance indicators is the number of children killed or seriously injured, which we have seen falling partly as a result of fewer children walking to school, is it not the case that the easiest way to meet that as a central target in big capital letters in a Government policy document is to discourage children from walking to school, which surely many other groups within society would argue is a bad thing?
Edmund King: No, I do not believe so. Everyone I have spoken to in road safety, if there is a target, wants to go beyond that target. The target is trying to point them in the right direction.
Q10 Paul Maynard: So a culture of continuous improvement is-
Edmund King: That is part of it, yes. The targets should ensure that there is continuous improvement.
Q11 Paul Maynard: Can you point to any other overseas jurisdictions which have hard and fast targets such as you are calling for?
Edmund King: The European Commission is advocating a target of 50% reduction in fatalities. That is probably quite broad because it is across the whole of the EC, whereas within a country it can be more defined and perhaps more achievable.
Q12 Paul Maynard: I have one final question, if I may. Would you therefore agree that many of the jurisdictions which have adopted the OECD’s Towards Zero philosophy start out with much higher fatality records than we do in the UK and that we are already one of the best performers in the world? Therefore, a philosophy of continuous improvement is more meaningful than an arbitrary target of, for example, zero that probably cannot be met anyway?
Edmund King: No, because Sweden has a vision for zero fatalities and, along with the UK, is one of the safest in the world. I do not think we are in conflict here. You can do both. You can continuously improve, and that can be your philosophy, but still have targets.
Q13 Paul Maynard: We will probably come back to you on that.
Nick Starling: Can I make a quick observation? The premise of your question was that we are saying that everything hangs or falls by targets. We are certainly not saying that. What we are saying is that it is absolutely crucial in road safety to focus on where the big problems are. From our point of view the big problems are massively those of young drivers. That is what the primary purpose should be. We think targets are very useful, but we are not saying the whole thing stands or falls by targets.
Quentin Willson: Your question is underpinned by a philosophical problem that we should acknowledge now, and that is that you have to have targets in the short term because road safety and the reduction of casualties, terrible though this sounds, is not something that engages the community. It is something that the driver does not take seriously enough. That is our central problem here. We have to change the perception and the assumptions of this country about road safety and the fact that good driving is something to be admired. Therefore, in the short term we have to have recognisable and measurable targets.
In a perfect world, your view that we need a policy of continuous improvement is the view I would subscribe to, but in the short term I believe targets have worked. It is a cultural shift that we need.
Q14 Jim Dobbin: I am interested in this debate about who is best placed to manage this. Is it going to be central Government or local government? I would have thought that central Government was there to finance and offer guidelines, and local government knows best how to do it locally. Is the view that the police and local authorities do not have the experience or enough skills to implement these road safety measures?
Neil Greig: I would say they do have those skills. They have shown that over a long track record. What we are already seeing is that, perhaps because of the perception that we do not have targets, against the background of a local need to cut public spending, we are already picking up that the road safety headlines are being cut harder and faster than the overall spending. Road safety is already suffering because of this perception that we do not have targets and perhaps, if cuts have to be made, they can be made in this easy area. We do need that leadership from central Government to make sure the local authorities know that this is an important area. It is like road maintenance. Often you can cut these things and there is no immediate impact, compared to closing a nursery school or whatever. The figures are showing that the cuts are there. Local authorities have the expertise. In many areas they are losing that expertise. We are seeing a lot of redundancies, and a lot of people with many years’ experience are leaving their local authorities because they are closing road safety units. It is not universal. Some authorities are good. The Government struggle to highlight those authorities where there is best practice. Certain areas are much better than others. There is a large variation in local authorities and regions across the UK. We should be trying to narrow that gap.
Q15 Chair: Is that a general picture, Mr Greig, on local authorities cutting back?
Neil Greig: We have been doing a survey looking at the published figures, which is last year’s figures obviously, and then there are some advance figures. It is in our evidence. What we are seeing is that the rate of cuts for road safety and the road safety education heading are higher. They are about 15.8% compared to an overall 9.5% cut in local authority spending. It is one of the Departments that seems to be getting hit hard.
Q16 Graham Stringer: You have talked about targets. Road accidents have been cut, first of all, by targeting drinking and driving and by improving the design of roads and cars to reduce deaths. What would reduce accidents by the greatest amount now? What is the next target?
Quentin Willson: Education, absolutely and fundamentally. It is the three "E"s: education, enforcement and engineering. In terms of education, we need to look at the driving test. I believe it is not fit for purpose. We must also look at how the next generation of drivers is taught. I believe we teach children at the wrong time. It is no good at 17. I would like to see driving on the GCSE syllabus like Citizenship. As far as I am concerned, the big question for this Committee and for society at large is how we improve driver education to change the mindset of young drivers who then become adult drivers.
Q17 Graham Stringer: There seem to be two difficult groups. One is those people who just ignore the problems caused by alcohol and driving. There is a core of people who will go out and have eight or nine pints.
Quentin Willson: The motoring underclass.
Q18 Graham Stringer: Yes; that is one way of describing them. Then there are daft young men. Do you really think you can get to those two groups by education?
Quentin Willson: I think the motoring underclass will never be educated and will never change their behaviour. Therefore, the second "E"-the enforcement one-is really important. There are 2,000,000 uninsured drivers on UK roads.
Nick Starling: It is about 4%. I can follow up on that.
Quentin Willson: It is a frighteningly large figure. They are allowed to carry on broadly unchecked because we simply do not have the necessary levels of enforcement. I believe this is a very dangerous minority that causes a lot of damage to other road users. They threaten our lives and are allowed to get away largely unchecked because the amount of traffic police are just not around. To control that deeply dangerous social group-this motoring underclass-I believe that you would have to have an increase in police enforcement.
Nick Starling: The answer to the first part of your question is that young drivers are a huge issue. It is an absolutely massive issue. Put bluntly, our members pay the bills for people being killed and seriously injured. It is not unusual to have claims of up to £20 million for a single crash. This is where there are three or four passengers in the car; they get what are euphemistically called "life-changing injuries" and they require lifetime care. It is an absolutely massive issue for our members. One in five young drivers will have a crash after passing their test. They are 10 times more likely to be killed-
Q19 Graham Stringer: Can I just interrupt? You say "young drivers", but it tends to be young men, doesn’t it? They are more at risk than young women.
Nick Starling: It is largely young men with passengers in the car. They may themselves not be drinking. They may be perfectly legal. That is the massive problem. We think that is a nettle that Government have simply not grasped. No Government has grasped this. They seem to be more concerned about young drivers as voters rather than young drivers as safe citizens. We think that is the area where a massive amount is needed.
But there is hope. You mentioned uninsured driving. You can act on things like uninsured driving and we have started to have success because of different ways of enforcement. You can tackle things by enforcement, but it is education and getting the driving test and training right. If the driver testing system was a school, Madam Chairman, that school would be in special measures. It is just not working. We think it is education, getting the test right and a fundamental look at making people realise what the issues to do with driving are. We can make a big change if we can tackle that.
Q20 Chair: Mr Willson, in your written evidence you spoke about the importance of educating young people at a younger age, before they are actually drivers. Do you think that is important?
Quentin Willson: This is probably the most important thing that we, as a Committee and as a society, could do to reduce the death toll on UK roads for young drivers. If you look at the notion that we take a 17-year-old boy after he has immersed himself in video games like Grand Theft Auto and watched every single episode of "Top Gear", by the time he sits behind that steering wheel he is completely corrupted and corroded by all the incorrect road safety messages. I do not believe you will ever be able to get past all that awful mental detritus that he already has in his head. He is less receptive because he is of that age. He is rebellious. He is less open to suggestion and to learning.
If you train them to drive on private land with dual-control cars and with specially qualified instructors at, dare I say it, 12, 13 or 14, when they are much more receptive and have not been corroded by these external social influences, then I believe you do that rare, rare thing. You change the mindset, where they are then able to take all the important road safety messages to mind.
You also have them doing what we call the "below the dashboard" stuff early, so that when they go on public roads to drive at 17-I am not arguing to reduce the age of testing-they can then deal with the grim subject of how not to kill themselves and others. It is something that we should think very carefully about. We should train younger drivers, pre-licence drivers, much earlier.
I submitted to the Committee some research from Sweden done by the Swedish Government, where they tested drivers who had gone through early pre-licence training to normal drivers who had just gone through the normal Swedish driving situation. The reduction in those vulnerable groups was a 41% decline in KSIs. That is one of the largest reductions of any road safety campaign globally.
I firmly believe that we should look very carefully at a pilot study to see just how beneficial this could be to change the mindset. This is what I mean when I talk about these big shiny initiatives that are separate from accepted road safety thinking. There will be those who say that it is wrong to teach kids to drive early because they will just go and steal cars. They are going to steal cars anyway if they are of that mind. There is an organisation in the UK called Young Driver that has already trained 25,000 kids. The data are there for us to drill deep into to see how their behaviour on the road is different from their peers. I passionately believe that this is a way of getting to grips with this young driver problem.
Neil Greig: It is very important. I do not want to demean the motoring underclass. It is a male issue, but there is an issue about all young drivers lacking in experience and not being prepared properly by the current test regime. We think the test does not prepare them for rural driving and night-time driving-the sort of things that actually kill them. I do not think you want to get diverted too much down the line of dealing with the motoring underclass as a male issue. It is an issue for all young drivers. We have research from Sweden, for example, that shows that, if you have more experience before, during and after you are driving, then you are more likely to be safe. The key issue for us from this strategy is the idea of what happens post-test. The risk is highest in the first six months of solo driving. Often we look at 17 to 24-year-olds, but it is actually 17, 18 and 19-year-olds. It is that first six months of solo driving. We just cast them adrift to learn by their own mistakes, often without giving them the proper experience of the roads that will kill them. We need to review learning how to drive and the driving test itself but also that post-test licensing phase. We are very keen that in those first six months to a year we don’t just hand the keys over and set them free. They should have some further interventions to help them deal with solo driving.
Q21 Chair: Would that be compulsory interventions?
Neil Greig: It is compulsory, for example, in Austria, where they have noted a 33% reduction in young male deaths on their roads since they brought in a system whereby you have three further interventions. There is no graduated licensing and no restrictions. You still get to go out at night with as many passengers as you like, but you have to come back for three further short interventions and one day with your peers to discuss attitude and things like that. It seems to have worked very well in Austria. We think we need something like that, which is part of this continuous learning and does not just set you free when you pass the test, because that is when you really start to learn how to drive.
Nick Starling: I agree with that up to a point, but, if you have a test which means you have to have post-test training, there is something wrong with the test. We think it is very interesting to get kids to learn the techniques, as Mr Willson is suggesting, but there has to be a structured learning period; you have to learn under certain conditions and in a certain period of time. You cannot just do an intensive course and go straight on the roads. We do think there needs to be post-test restrictions. The clearest one and the most concerning one is the passenger issue. If a young boy gets into a car with three passengers, that triples the chance of having a crash. That is just an unacceptable statistic.
Edmund King: Could I just add something on the education? It is the education of parents as well. We did a survey last year which asked, "What is the biggest risk to your teenage son or daughter?" The results came up with knife crime, gun crime, HIV, drink and drugs, whereas being a passenger or indeed a driver in a car was very low down. Yet, in terms of accidental death, that should be at the top. As a society we are still not totally aware that, for your teenage son, getting into a car is probably the most at risk he will ever be. That is one point.
Quentin talked about training under the age of 17. I know this Committee has taken evidence from the Under 17 Car Club that has shown some good evidence that people get rid of the adrenalin before they get on the road. They have been on the skid pan and they have done all that. Certainly in my family, my nephews and nieces have all been through that and not one of them has had an accident since. That helps, but it does tend to be middle-class kids that go on those courses. What we are trying to do is open something up to everyone. There is now a BTEC in Driving Science that we are promoting through free software to every school in the UK. It is a programme called "Drive iQ". You can start this online before the age of 17. It looks at the whole thing about attitudes and what causes crashes. It tries to get kids to think about the consequences of road safety before they get behind the wheel. That then goes on and it gives them a qualification. It covers things like night-time and motorway driving.
If you can get the insurance industry to offer a substantial insurance discount for people who do that kind of tailored course, that will be a step in the right direction, as will insurance products that monitor the way young drivers then drive. We are looking at a product that does not just look at the time of day you drive but how you drive, accelerate, brake and corner.
One of my colleagues has it on his car testing. Last week his car was picked up by the garage for a service. On the read-out the acceleration and braking went up 40%. You could see that the guy that picked up his car for the service was doing 51 mph in a 30 mph limit. You may think that is Big Brother, but at least it helps to see how people are driving and whether they are driving responsibly. If parents have that data, there is probably something they can do about it.
Q22 Chair: Mr Starling, would insurers be prepared to reduce premiums for young people if they either had additional training or their driving was examined and shown to be safer?
Nick Starling: Insurers already encourage safer driving via the no claims discount. The no claims discount delivers what it says on the tin.
Q23 Chair: Yes, but would you reduce premiums for young drivers who undertook this experience?
Nick Starling: If young drivers can demonstrate that they are driving safely and if they can get through that first year without having a claim, then their premium starts to come down.
Q24 Chair: Mr Starling, I am asking you to respond to these questions.
Nick Starling: No. Insurers are not going to take a punt on just saying, "You are doing this training; therefore we will offer you a discount." First of all, you want people to do training to become better drivers. If people are doing training just for the motivation of getting lower insurance premiums, that is the wrong way round. If there is a demonstration that these sorts of systems work, then very quickly the rewards start to kick in.
I will mention telematics. At the beginning of my remarks I said that everyone has to be in this together sorting this issue out. Telematics is where the insurance industry is making a big contribution to road safety and young driver road safety. Most of our members are now looking at different sorts of products. What is interesting about the telematics products is that they work by encouragement. You build up rewards by driving safely. I have heard stories of young people lending the car to their parents and telling their parents to drive slowly so that they don’t mess up their rewards system. Telematics is a good and promising way forward, but just to say, "You are doing training; therefore you get a discount", is not going to sort out the problem.
Quentin Willson: But the industry does need to help and offer consumers a fiscal incentive to change their behaviour.
Nick Starling: No claims discount does it.
Chair: Mr Starling and Mr Willson, can you address your comments here, please? We do not want the witnesses arguing. Your differences of view are noted.
Q25 Julian Sturdy: I have two points. First, we have talked about pre-test education and I entirely agree with what has been said so far. There are also post-test qualifications. What do you all think about the system still running in Australia, where you have a provisional system after you have passed your test? You pass your test and then you have 12 months on a "P" plate, where speed limits are slightly restricted and access to certain routes is probably restricted as well. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Nick Starling: We have always advocated that there should be graduated licensing; in other words, there should be restrictions on particular forms of behaviour after you have passed your test. The main one that has always concerned our members has been the number of passengers. Night-time driving is another issue. There might be other possibilities. Another possibility would be a two-stage type test, which is what happens with motorcycles, for example. We believe that there does need to be some sort of post-test restriction.
Edmund King: But in a way that is a slightly negative way of looking at it. It is basically saying that, once you have passed your test, you are not really ready to drive. Surely it would be better to try and get those attitudes and dangers sorted out before you pass your test rather than giving you the test and then saying, "You can’t drive with two passengers." Sometimes it is useful to take two passengers. It might be the designated driver and the others are not drink-driving. There are immense complications in how you would police curfews on young drivers. In our view we would rather sort out the problems before giving them the test.
Quentin Willson: We should make sure the test is fit for purpose and that we teach them how to overtake and drive at night, which we just don’t do. That means we are failing them.
Neil Greig: Experience is important, in our view. Experiencing these things yourself is the best way to learn. If you restrict that, then you are postponing that inevitable point when you are going to be on your own, learning to overtake on a dark road at night. A lot of the graduated licensing systems from around the world are not really similar to our own. They often start driving earlier; so you are talking about 15 or 16-year-olds having restrictions and then at 17 coming into line with us. It is often quite difficult to compare what is happening elsewhere with what is happening in the UK. For us, again, we just think that first six months is the key. They have to have experience, but if they had some kind of further interventions as well, which may be part of the continuous learning, I do not see any particular problem in having a test. You are always going to have that situation where you are on your own for the first time or you are in a car with a bunch of young people as well who are going to cause problems for you. You can talk and learn about it, and perhaps learn some strategies for how to deal with peer pressure, but you don’t get the experience until you have actually done it.
We need to get that in some kind of semi-controlled environment. If you start having night-time curfews, it is difficult to enforce. There is a huge impact on the rural economy. Young people going out at night is all part of the economy at the moment and it would have a big impact on them. Things like controlling the size of car engines is not really an issue. I would rather see them being encouraged to be in modern cars with ABS and the full crash protection. They are often driving older cars, which does not help the problem either.
Q26 Julian Sturdy: Can I go back to the three "E"s of education, engineering and better enforcement? You have just pointed out about the new technology coming forward now with cars. If we could get all these improved-obviously engineering technology is improving, but assuming we could get better education and improved enforcement-does that strengthen the case for upping the speed limits on motorways to 80 mph?
Quentin Willson: I worry about upping the speed limit on motorways. I know it is difficult to enforce a 30 mph speed limit and a 70 mph speed limit that is widely abused.
Q27 Chair: What about the proposal to increase the speed limit to 80 mph?
Quentin Willson: I think it would have to be variable. There are some roads-a dual carriageway going through Bedford or wherever-where you could not have an 80 mph speed limit. It would have to be just on motorways and as that variable. There is a danger that people travel over the posted limit now. I guess it is about 75 mph or 76 mph. Raise it to 80 mph and they will be going even faster. We need to look at it very carefully, but it would have to be variable and apply only to motorways. Any benefits to society about us all getting to work earlier because it is going to make us go faster is complete moonshine. We need to look at this carefully and understand that people are not as skilled as they used to be driving cars. We do not want to see amounts of people going down motorways at 90 mph and feeling that they can because there are no police cars out there to stop them, because there aren’t.
Q28 Chair: Are there any other views on the safety implications of raising the motorway speed limit to 80 mph or other speed issues?
Edmund King: Driving at 80 mph in a modern car on a modern motorway in good weather a safe distance from the car in front is safe, if you have all those criteria. I am quite attracted to the French system whereby, if it is raining, icy or snowy, the limit drops. It is a kind of common-sense approach in terms of variables. The variable is not just the quality of the road; it is also the weather. If you do that, then 80 mph is probably a safe limit.
The problem on our motorways quite often is not sheer speed but the way people drive. Tailgating-driving too close to the car in front-is a much bigger issue than speeding. The problem there is that, with the reduction in traffic police, we are not prosecuting people for tailgating or other forms of dangerous driving. I think that would have more effect.
There is an argument though that currently, if you are doing between 70 mph and 80 mph on a motorway, it would be incredibly rare that you would be stopped by the police and prosecuted. Our slight fear about that is, if that is the case, that some people are a bit lax about speed limits in a 30 mph or a 40 mph limit. If we did have an 80 mph limit in good weather and on decent motorways, and all the other limits are enforced, that would be progress.
Q29 Chair: Are there any other views on speed limits?
Nick Starling: From our members’ point of view motorways are not the problem; it is rural roads and some urban roads. I would agree with what other witnesses have said. On three or four-lane modern engineered motorways where you can vary the speed, it could work. The main issue is away from the motorways in terms of road safety from our point of view.
Neil Greig: Motorways are a small part of the accident problem. On managed motorways there is a large amount of CCTV. You know what is happening up ahead. You can vary it up and down. It goes down at the moment; it could go up if the conditions allow it. These managed motorways are being extended across and around urban areas such as the M42 and M1 into more rural motorways as well. There will be a lot more motorways with that technology on it that can see what is happening ahead and can vary the speed limit and enforce it. The problem is that 80 mph is about the average now. People know that with the guidelines you can get away with 78 mph. Under the guidelines of 10% on top of 80 mph, you could be heading towards 90 mph or even higher. People will learn that; they know that. If it is enforced on a managed motorway which has the traffic and speed cameras on it, you have more chance of perhaps controlling that very high end. It still does come down to driver behaviour as well.
Q30 Graham Stringer: Didn’t the Secretary of State quote some evidence when he was mooting the idea of having an 80 mph limit that the average speed only increased by 2% if you upped the speed limit to 80 mph? Are you aware of the Secretary of State’s comments and do you know the evidence base that he was using?
Neil Greig: I am not aware of that particular comment. There is some evidence that I have seen recently from the US where there was an increase in accidents when they put up the speed limit on Interstate motorways. Again, it is hard to compare directly what was going on. There is an indication that people do feel quite comfortable. They are driving at a speed where they feel quite comfortable. They will start to feel a bit more uncomfortable when they get into the 90s. We are talking about the majority of people. There will always be this minority who will want to push the limit on every occasion, but for the majority of people they seem to be quite comfortable with what is happening on the motorways just now.
Q31 Mr Harris: In international comparisons are any of you aware of any other country where the national speed limit has been raised and the level of road accidents has consequently been reduced?
Quentin Willson: No.
Q32 Chair: The silence answers that.
Neil Greig: Only the opposite.
Q33 Paul Maynard: I have a question for Mr Greig on two tables in his evidence. I was particularly struck by Table 1.1, which showed the regional disparities in deaths per 100,000 people in 2009. The east midlands has a death rate twice that of the north-east, which struck me as a particularly strong argument for a more localist approach. How do you think Government can utilise the EuroRAP statistics on particular roads, which struck me as a useful tool for local councils to have at the heart of their road safety strategy, and how can that be better integrated into what the Government are doing? That seems a more powerful indicator of where and why accidents are occurring than the rather crude national level that many road safety charities wish to focus on.
Neil Greig: There is no doubt that EuroRAP has reached a level of detail and scientific rigour where it could be used as an indicator, certainly to allow local authorities to look at their own roads and to compare different regions. The key thing about EuroRAP is that it looks at the risk of those particular roads. It is about road design rather than road behaviour. In many cases it highlights simple things like white lining, realigning bends and lighting junctions. It is simple engineering measures. Ultimately, though, from an IAM perspective, how people drive on those roads is going to be important as well. We think EuroRAP is important because, as with Euro NCAP, it has brought up the quality of cars. EuroRAP is bringing up the quality of roads, but we are still going to have this problem of poor quality of driving even on those roads that have been improved. We have certainly supported EuroRAP as an indicator which could sit quite happily alongside other national indicators.
Q34 Paul Maynard: Finally, I have a question on Table 1.2. You made the point earlier about the 15.8% reduction in local government spending on road safety. Could you explain this table a little more? I note that funding has increased for road safety from £102 million in 2008-09 to £123 million in 2009-10, sharply increasing to £147 million in 2010-11, and then back to £124 million in 2011-12. While you are technically correct that there is a 15.8% drop compared to last year, could you explain a little more about why it is still higher than it was in 2009-10 and what led to the spike between those two years?
Neil Greig: I am afraid it has just been down to some form of local government policy. I do not know why that spike has occurred. For us, the key point that I was making in that table was that the rate of reduction seems to be faster in road safety education spending than for total local authority spending. I am not aware of why that particular figure is so much higher. We make the point that spending on road maintenance and road safety goes up and down. There is very little long-term planning. It is very difficult to plan without knowing what money you are going to get, the type of initiative change or the grant support changes. That makes it difficult to pick out the real trends there. The key thing is that this is based on a survey of a lot of authorities. Some are spending more and some are spending less. We want to iron that out to get some kind of level playing-field.
Q35 Paul Maynard: You would agree that it is not a simple, straightforward picture as that diagram shows.
Neil Greig: It is not simple, but we have certainly had information from certain authorities that they are cutting and from others that they are adding.
Q36 Jim Dobbin: The issue of education has been discussed, mainly targeted at young people and schools. Last week I was driving down to London on the M6 and it was closed for five hours, probably longer, because two HGVs had jack-knifed. One of the drivers was killed. Mr King mentioned tailgating. It is never as bad as with HGVs. What can we do about that? Are refresher courses needed? It is exceptionally dangerous and it is happening all the time.
Edmund King: There is no doubt, when you look at motorways, that there are a disproportionate amount of incidents involving HGVs, particularly in poor weather. With snow and ice, the number of trucks jack-knifed is a particular problem. It is something that the Highways Agency has started to look at, giving more specific warnings for HGVs, particularly in bad weather.
The other issue there is the influx of foreign trucks. If you go on the M2 or the M20, you have to have your wits about you if you are in the central lane because of the problem of side swipes from trucks without the additional mirrors. Again, initiatives have been taken at the Port of Dover and elsewhere of giving additional mirrors, but there are still problems there. The point you make about looking at truck safety, particularly in relation to motorways, is perhaps one to which not enough attention has been given.
Q37 Chair: Would you be able to give us any information on the extent of that problem with the foreign trucks? Do you have any information about that?
Nick Starling: Madam Chair, we did some work on this a couple of years ago which I am afraid I do not have at my fingertips, but we can certainly let you have that.
Q38 Chair: Would you be able to send us some information on that?
Nick Starling: Yes.
Neil Greig: The actual Government figures show that foreign-registered vehicles are quite a small problem. They cover that in the annual road safety statistics, which I can forward to you.
Q39 Chair: If the frequency of MOT testing is reduced, what impact would that have on road safety?
Quentin Willson: I think that way disaster lies. I am really passionate about this. To take away this vital yearly check for car safety would cost society an awful lot more than the notional bureaucratic and personal cost for people to MOT their cars. We know that people’s ability for servicing and being aware of how a car works has declined dramatically. To take that away and have things like tyres, ball joints, steering racks, brakes and brake pipes inspected only every two years would take us the way France has gone with their two-year MOT. You can just see that the cars over there are woefully badly maintained. The French Government agree that this is a contributory factor to accidents and fatalities.
Most people don’t have access to look under their cars. Even the most hardened car enthusiast does not have a ramp. Some 50% of the tyres coming off cars at the moment are illegal. That is a statistic from Goodyear Dunlop. If you take that two-year check away, given the amount of miles people do, you reduce the safety of the national car parc significantly. It is a very dangerous thing to do.
Edmund King: If I could just add to that, from a motorist’s point of view-we have done various surveys of 20,000-odd drivers in AA Populus polls-94% think the MOT is important to road safety; 62% felt that if it was a two-year MOT there would be more unsafe cars on the road; just 13% indicated that it would save them money and that was an important criteria. Even for the drivers themselves, they do not resent having an annual MOT because they see it as a safety check. Our figures also show that 15% of people have cut back on servicing in the last year or so due to the cost of fuel. If they are cutting back on servicing and then if they are only having an MOT every two years, there will be more cars out there with faulty brake lights, faulty tyres and so on, and potentially more accidents. It really is a retrograde step and I do not understand why the Government have even considered it.
Nick Starling: This is not an area where we have done any analysis or have any particular evidence from our members. It is important to remember that everyone has an ongoing responsibility to make sure their car is safe on the road. There is always a slight risk that, if people leave it for the annual check, then they are not taking that ongoing responsibility. We think it is important that people look after the safety-critical parts of their cars. The annual MOT is a good way of doing that. We need to look at all the evidence, but the key thing is what Mr Willson suggested: the tyres, the brakes and so forth. We need to make sure that people know they have to be maintained properly and safely. Whatever we have, we need a good and rigorous regime for that.
Neil Greig: At the IAM we are perhaps more open to the idea of change. You have to remember that mechanical defects as a contributory factor in accidents is very small. It is in single figures. That still equates to a couple of hundred people injured and killed in a crash where mechanical failure was an issue, but it is a tiny part of the overall crash position.
Several years ago we were quite vocally in favour of increasing the frequency of MOTs from the point of view of saving the motorist money and the fact that it was not a big issue in road safety terms. We got some information from VOSA as to why cars fail on the first MOT at three years old. They are failing for tyres, brakes and key safety-critical items. We backed off because we said we can’t be calling for MOTs at 4-2-2 or extending it, when virtually new cars, still under warranty, are still failing for safety-critical items. There is a need for a much deeper investigation. Why is it? If you look at Europe, they have much lower failure rates, even when they have less frequent tests. They are supposed to be a similar level of MOT test. The level is set by the EU. We go above that but some countries stick to the level. Why is it that in certain countries very few cars fail at three years? What is happening in the motor trade in the UK that we are having these three-year-old cars, still under warranty and often sold with a three-year service package, failing their MOT? There is a deeper issue here about how we use the MOT as a safety check rather than proper servicing. That is an attitude thing which may be very difficult to change, but it is worth looking at. It does cost consumers an awful lot of money to have these extra MOTs.
We do not want to do away with the MOT. There are environmental as well as safety benefits of an MOT, but there is an issue here as to why we are so out of step with many other modern states in Europe when it comes to the way we look after our cars and the failure rates particularly for those very new cars compared to other countries.
Chair: Thank you very much for coming and answering our questions.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Tony Russell, Transport Engineering Manager, Sustrans, Roger Geffen, Campaigns & Policy Director, the UK’s national cyclists’ organisation, CTC, Craig Carey-Clinch, Managing Director, Rowan Public Affairs Ltd and Motor Cycle Industry Association, and Jack Semple, Director of Policy, Road Haulage Association, gave evidence.
Q40 Chair: Good morning and welcome to the Transport Select Committee. Could I start by asking you to give your name and the organisation you represent? This is to help our records.
Jack Semple: I am Jack Semple, Director of Policy at the Road Haulage Association.
Craig Carey-Clinch: I am Craig Carey-Clinch representing the Motor Cycle Industry Association today.
Tony Russell: I am Tony Russell. I am Transport Engineering Manager at Sustrans.
Roger Geffen: I am Roger Geffen. I am Campaigns & Policy Director at CTC, the UK national cyclists’ organisation.
Q41 Chair: Thank you. Are the Government right to stop using targets as a way of improving road safety? Do you think that is a big issue?
Tony Russell: I will kick off from our perspective. We have reservations over there not being any targets. We welcome the range of indicators that are put in the outcomes framework, but we have concerns that the absence of any targets is going to make it difficult, particularly at the local level, for local authorities to be able to argue the case in a situation of tightening resources for a prioritisation of road safety.
As we heard from the previous evidence, road safety targets in the past have proven to be very effective. We feel that it is a retrograde step not to have any targets. They need to be intelligent targets, in the sense that we welcome the introduction of rate-based measures in the indicator table. We would particularly like to see targets relating to the level of usage by pedestrians and cyclists rather than just absolute numbers or per population. We feel that not having targets would impinge on the effect of local delivery as well as the wider ability for the framework to deliver real reductions in road accidents.
Q42 Chair: Would you like to see local targets?
Tony Russell: We would like to see national targets and we would like to see Government working with the local authorities, encouraging them to come up with their own local targets that may reflect the national targets. If there is a national target, there are implications locally as to how that is adopted. In the sense of cascading down, yes, there would be some sort of local element to that.
Jack Semple: We do not have very strong views either way. We are conscious that, while there have been targets to reduce accident rates, most of the impact of change has come from the vehicle manufacturers meeting EU regulation. That has been fairly widely agreed across Government.
From our point of view, we would like to see a further increase in identifying the cause of accidents and solutions and monitoring performance. Up until now the substantial reduction that we have had has not, in the main, been the result of UK Government policy. I think that has been fairly well acknowledged. While targets may be useful, more important is action and monitoring what is going on.
Q43 Chair: Are there any other views on it?
Craig Carey-Clinch: With regard to the motorcycle community and industry, the experience of targets has been somewhat mixed. Some points were made by the previous witnesses about the need to measure progress, as one would in any company, and that is a very important thing to do. But a more holistic approach to the notion of targeting needs to be done with certain vehicle user groups where, for example, small numbers of increases or decreases can result in massive percentage change.
We feel that rate-based targeting was something that was not exploited properly by the previous Government, or this one for that matter, as a true indicator of how our road safety has progressed. The absence of targets is a worry but one that is perhaps manageable if the indicators are used properly and local authorities are given the correct guidance regarding how they should progress in their area and due to local circumstances. Again, it is about the Government not disconnecting locally but providing that guidance.
Roger Geffen: I will just pick up on the points that Craig and Tony have both made about rate-based targets. This is the bit that we think is really important. Any measurement of cyclists’ safety, whether it is a target or an indicator, should be rate-based. We welcome the fact that the Government have decided to go with rate-based measures so that, when cycle casualties go up slightly, you don’t get alarmist headlines if cycle use has increased more steeply and therefore cycling has become safer.
It is good that the Government have done that at the national level. It is less easy to do it at the local level simply because most local authorities do not have a good measure of cycle use in their areas. As an interim measure, we advocate the adoption of perception-based targets alongside the rate-based measures so that you are asking people whether they think that cycling and, indeed, walking are getting safer in their areas. If people think that cycling is getting safer, they are more likely to cycle. More and safer cycling can and does go hand in hand, as CTC showed in our "Safety in Numbers" report. Cyclists gain from safety in numbers. The more cyclists there are, the safer cycling gets. That benefits health, the environment and a whole load of other things too. It reduces risk for other road users as well. It is important not to have alarmist headlines when cycle casualties go up slightly without looking at what is happening to cycle use. The important bit is to motivate local authorities to go for more, as well as safer, cycling.
Q44 Jim Dobbin: On this point about who is best placed to manage and deal with road safety, I am getting the impression that there is a feeling here that central Government is probably best placed to do that. That is not my view. I would like some clarification on that. Is it your view that those at local level, whether it is police or local government, do not have the skills to manage this process?
Craig Carey-Clinch: I would suggest that, if you allow a free-for-all, then you tend to find a lot of wheel reinvention going on. We noticed this with the motorcycle safety schemes, for example, at local authority level. Some extremely good schemes came out, but what we tended to find was that a lot were just copying standards and then adding a new title to it or a new way of promoting it. It was almost like a badge-collecting idea, when in fact what you have nationally is a lot of best practice that can be exchanged.
This is not to advocate that central Government should take control of all local road safety, but to an extent there is a need for that guidance and a need for the bringing together of certain skills, best practices and expertise, and advocating centrally to local authorities that in making their own decisions they should not indulge in wheel reinvention.
Q45 Jim Dobbin: To follow that through, is there any indication that since the spending review there has been an increase locally in road hazards?
Craig Carey-Clinch: It is difficult to tell, but we have seen a reduction in the number of local road safety officers. There is less prioritisation towards vulnerable mode road safety. I include cycling as well as motorcycling in this. In fact we could do with a lot more local partnerships and a lot more prioritisation, because at the end of the day road accidents cost the community quite large amounts of money and the impacts locally are extremely severe.
Roger Geffen: I would flag up that point about road policing as the area where we are seeing the most immediate cutbacks. That may lie behind the fact that in the last year the rate for serious and fatal cyclist injuries has gone up. It may be that that is just because the measure of cycle use has not been accurately collected. There are real doubts about the measurement of cycle use at the national level, let alone the local level. What is clear is that in recent years cycling has been getting safer over the past decade. Cycle casualties dropped by 17% and cycle use grew by 20%, so the risk of cycling dropped by 31% over a decade. However, in the past year that may have gone into reverse. We do not know why, but it may be related to a reduction in road traffic policing. That possibility certainly concerns us.
Q46 Jim Dobbin: Mr Geffen, what is your view of cyclists who continually go through red lights?
Roger Geffen: CTC is not here to defend illegal behaviour by cyclists any more than you would expect the AA or the RAC to defend illegal behaviour by drivers. In road safety terms it is not a huge issue. We saw figures only last week from Transport for London that showed that, in the last three years for which they have data, jumping red lights or disobeying junction controls accounted for 5% of cyclists’ fatal and serious injuries in London. 15% were accounted for by drivers jumping red lights. It is one of these things. Jumping a red light on a bike is illegal and can be dangerous. Jumping a red light in a car is much more dangerous, and that is where policing priorities need to lie. They need to tackle the real sources of danger and fear that deter people from cycling. We are all in favour of an increase in road policing, as I have explained. If some of that comes down on errant cyclists that is fair game, but the priority has to be reducing danger at source.
Q47 Chair: You have mentioned reductions in road traffic policing and local authority funding. What evidence do you have for that? How widespread is all of that? Can anyone comment on that?
Jack Semple: We are trying to get specific quantified evidence at the moment. We have a concern that on the police side there has been a reduction in road policing, specifically in the haulage industry. Some expertise with regard to trucks and haulage behaviour may be being lost around the country by police forces that are under pressure to make cuts. The Home Office focus on road safety policing is not particularly high.
We are also engaged with VOSA, and we are very keen for the Department to ensure that VOSA’s funding for enforcement at the roadside and at depots, where that is appropriate, is maintained. Most of it comes from the industry, but the Department has itself made a contribution which has been increased, as the Committee will know, because much of it came from the Committee’s report two or three years ago.
Interestingly, there was then a specific issue in respect of the safety of foreign vehicles, which the Department itself said were three times more likely to be in an accident. I do not have the latest statistics to hand, but they suggest that the effort that has gone into policing in respect of foreign vehicles, where there had been a big deficit, has produced some beneficial road safety outcomes. It has reduced the accident rate for foreign vehicles. The accident rate is still higher than for UK trucks, but that is an example where money has made a difference and we are very keen to ensure that the effectiveness of VOSA’s effort is maintained, particularly at a time when the police are cutting back in their resources.
Craig Carey-Clinch: From the perspective of where the industry sits, we are concerned about potential contraction in the ability of forces to maintain BikeSafe officers and general road traffic policing by motorcycle. We have seen a reduction in motorcycle units over the last few years. Clearly that has an impact on safety.
Slightly broader, of course, is the Stolen Vehicle Squad, and particularly the Met’s Stolen Vehicle Unit has seen a lot of threats of late. The whole area of police engagement with motorcycling and general road safety has been under threat. Some very serious underlying results could occur from this if it is not arrested.
Q48 Paul Maynard: Forgive me if I return to my favourite topic of targets. I would aim my question at Mr Russell. I am particularly interested in the impact of nationally set targets on local government decision making, particularly in regard to children walking to school and the information you have referred to about more and more children being driven and the impact that has on congestion. Would you at least agree with me that there is no incentive for local government to support charities such as Living Streets that try to develop walking buses if they are being measured on a KPI regarding children killed or seriously injured, which might go up if they promote more children walking to school? There is a perverse incentive in there, is there not?
Tony Russell: Yes. That is what we are highlighting in the point we make in our submission. It comes back to Roger’s point about a rate-based indicator or target. Whether we are talking of indicators or targets, the same issue applies. In the case of children walking to school, if it can be put in the context of the numbers of children walking to school against the level of casualties, then that enables a rate-based target to be produced. That is probably one at a local level that is more practicable to move forward with than an overall one. A lot of local authorities do already collect data on children walking to school, although it is not a requirement on them any more. They have in the past certainly had that data. That would enable that very specific rate based indicator to be picked up on, either as an indicator or a target, and to make it more meaningful. It is a very important one, and, as you say, it can potentially lead to decisions that are using evidence that is unhelpful or misleading.
Roger Geffen: I would briefly add that I absolutely take the point about perverse disincentives. That is exactly why we argued that the current road safety framework should be rate-based rather than absolute numbers, to get away from the previous perverse disincentive on road safety officers to not want to encourage cycle use.
It is therefore very welcome that the Government have adopted the rate-based indicator. We now think they need to go further and disapply anything that is purely set in numerical terms for casualty reduction disapply these to walking or to cycling simply because it is so important to be incentivising more as well as safer walking and cycling on public health grounds, quite apart from the environmental and other wider benefits.1
Craig Carey-Clinch: I would add something here further to what Roger is saying. If you look at the 40% arbitrary targets in the early days from the 2000 road safety strategy, when you are getting the absolute numbers in the way they were in those days, then such targets may seem more achievable. If you continue with these arbitrary similar percentage rate targets, you are going to end up with diminishing returns, as we saw from the last set of strategies. Europe is a prime example. The 40% or 50% target for the year 2010 came nowhere near it. The British record was much better, and yet there is now talk of a further 50%. Rate-based targeting can target effectively rather than just being somewhat arbitrary. Like CTC, we have common cause on this particular issue of rate-based targeting.
Q49 Paul Maynard: I would like to follow up on that with you. I enjoyed reading your evidence and I spent most of last night trying to work out which particular motorcycling campaign had had the most impact on me. It was about opening your door and having someone slam into it. I could not remember whether it was BikeSafe, Think Bike, DriveSafe, RideSafe or whatever. I take your point that there is a diversity of provision, as it were. In terms of whether localism can work, should the measure be the impact on the motorist/motorcyclist or should it be on the diversity provision in the first place? If it is doing the trick, does it matter who is providing it? That is a very open question to which I do not know the answer.
Craig Carey-Clinch: You get to the nub of the point that we made in our written evidence about the proliferation of different sounding schemes that all do the same thing. It is wasteful of resources in the first place. In terms of the motorcyclists themselves, it sends out the message, "What am I supposed to do then?" There are all these different schemes and ideas out there, and this is where the localism needs to meet the national framework of that guiding hand on best practices and things like that. That would be the key thing with this.
Q50 Julian Sturdy: I want to touch on 20 mph zones. There have been a number of campaigns running across the country to convert large residential areas to 20 mph zones. This is going beyond the 20 mph zones we have seen around schools and specifically targeted areas. Do you think that local authorities should have more powers to introduce 20 mph zones, or do you see that there are knock-on consequences that could come out of this?
Tony Russell: The short answer is that, yes, we do. We are very aware of the strong evidence for benefits within 20 mph zones, where there is physical traffic calming. What is now being explored more is relaxing the requirements for physical features to enable areas to implement 20 mph limits without the same sort of costs. That is what is done in a lot of cities on mainland Europe. There are 30 kph areas with selected traffic calming, but it does not often have the same level of physical features.
At the moment it is early days of monitoring the scheme that has gone in at Portsmouth, and I think, Oxford, which have had some monitoring and shown the benefits in their particular situation. There are a number of other schemes that are in and are actively being monitored. We would certainly like to see it being made easier for local authorities to use their discretion in implementing 20 mph limits and zones within a structure that they feel is appropriate at a local level rather than just the national rules that they have to follow. It has tended to be very expensive to put in a zone in the past and it has limited what you can do.
Roger Geffen: Could I just add to this? In a recent Government-commissioned evidence review from the Transport Research Laboratory into what physical design features of our roads and junctions most affect cyclists’ safety, anything that deals with speed reduction came out top, with 20 mph having a particularly strong evidence base of a real impact on cyclists’ safety and indeed for pedestrians and all other road user categories. The best evidence base is around 20 mph.
Bearing in mind that children’s injuries overwhelmingly happen near their homes during the school holidays, weekends and evenings and not at the school gates, we think it is really important that people should live in a 20 mph zone. Simply concentrating around the school gate merely encourages the idea that children are driven to school and all that matters is that they can run safely from the car door to the school gate. That is why we think it is absolutely vital that we should extend 20 mph schemes more widely.
We think it is important to bring out the fact that 75% of the population support 20 mph speed limits, and that is 72% among drivers. We think it is important that the Association of Chief Police Officers revises its guidance. One of the reasons why local authorities struggle to introduce 20 mph is because the local police force says, "We won’t enforce it." It is important that education and enforcement are linked - that was a point touched on in the previous evidence session. If we promote the idea that 20 mph is the right thing to do, and then you reinforce that by taking enforcement action to back up that that is the right thing to do in a residential street, then you get the right outcomes for driver behaviour. You legitimise nicking the idiot drivers who continue to drive down residential streets where children might be playing. The two have to go hand-in-hand. Making sure that ACPO is on board is a critical step to making it easier for local authorities to implement 20 mph.
Craig Carey-Clinch: This is one area where a certain amount of care does need to be taken. The evidence base, as Roger has outlined, is extremely powerful to support these 20 mph zones. The 20 mph zones are one of those things where localism has a real role to play. We need to be careful that we do not see a blanket ideology of 20 mph override a pragmatic case that is supported by local people.
My main concern with the blanket-whole-district limits, which are not effectively targeted, is that we generate a culture of disrespect. We know already that a lot of people ignore these limits. If you disrespect one limit, then perhaps you start to disrespect others. When people do not respect the law, that is when we see real problems. So, yes, for 20 mph limits where there is proven local need, but be careful about just applying a blanket ideology of speed reduction.
Roger Geffen: I would agree about keeping the community on board. That is important.
Q51 Chair: The Government want to reduce road casualties among children in deprived areas. What do you think should be done to address that and deal with that? Do you think the Government’s proposals will make any progress in that area?
Craig Carey-Clinch: I can kick off on that one. It is education. I fully support the calls being made by previous witnesses on road traffic education in schools. It is a key fundamental. The idea of road use or interaction with transport is something that affects us all almost from the day we are born, and yet there is a paucity of education in schools to prepare people for road use, whether they are a walker, cyclist, motorcyclist or car driver. That is the starting place.
If you look at vehicle use in deprived areas where you sometimes get vehicle crime and that sort of thing, you need engagement with local communities and the ability to provide provision for local motor projects, which are again about responsible road use. You also need to reduce illegal motorcycling particularly in some semi-rural areas, such as off-road biking and things like that, through the provision of fully structured off-road motorcycle schools. Again, these are things which engage young people and bring them in. You can engage them in sport as well as responsible road use. There is a whole range of measures here-a package-that needs to be considered.
Q52 Chair: Are there any other views on how to bring those casualty rates down?
Roger Geffen: There are four main areas that need to be focused on, all of which are about tackling people’s perceptions as well as the actual dangers that deter people from cycling. One is speed and speeding, which brings us back to 20 mph but also reduces speeds at major junctions as well. That is a proven safety intervention.
We need to make sure that local authorities follow the Government’s guidance on cycle-friendly planning and design and that it is not seen as optional because it really is safety-critical, most critically on major roads and junctions. There should be good cycle-friendly design of major roads and junctions.
We need road traffic policing and tackling bad driving, backed up by the education campaigns. As I say, education and enforcement are complementary and need to be linked, but boosting road traffic policing is another area where the strategy is weak.
Finally, there are the threats to cyclists posed by lorries. Lorries are involved in around 20% of cyclist fatalities and over 50% of cyclist fatalists in London and probably also in other large cities. We are very concerned that the road safety Minister gave the go-ahead for a trial of longer lorries on UK roads. Having made what we believe were two misleading statements to Parliament about the safety impacts of that, and having then gone ahead with this via a mechanism that effectively bypassed parliamentary scrutiny, we are very concerned about this. We hope that the Committee will question the Minister about this and at least ask him to put the record straight on those two misleading claims. I am happy to provide further information about them.
Q53 Chair: Mr Russell, did you want to comment on this?
Tony Russell: Yes. I was going to pick up on your question about children in deprived areas particularly as well. It links into what we were saying earlier about 20 mph limits. I entirely agree with Craig on the community aspect of it. In a deprived area, the lowest 10% of deprivation has something like three times the number of child pedestrian accidents as the top 10%. There is a very big difference. A certain element of that is the higher exposure. If one can make the environment safer, then having 20 mph zones would be one element that could be used to move that forward. As we are saying, that needs to be a local decision with community involvement. It does very much link in with the sort of thing Craig was just talking about on the wider education. Potentially, if there is that support, there could be quite a bit of improvement. We are talking about locations where there are not a lot of alternative choices for people who have to walk. There is the higher exposure and not a lot that can be done to reduce that, whereas in other areas kids may be taken off the road and ferried to school in cars. We have already covered that before. There is a difference there as to what the options are. There are very few options in terms of change of choice.
Q54 Graham Stringer: I want to follow up on Mr Carey-Clinch’s response. It is easy to say that education is the answer to this. If you look at some of the areas we are talking about where the incidence of accidents on children are high, these children do not go to school. There is a very high truancy rate. They often come from dysfunctional families with chaotic lifestyles. Children are wandering about on the streets at all times of day and night. You are not going to get through to those young people in classrooms that they do not attend. They are often functionally illiterate. Isn’t the answer that you have given to that question too facile?
Craig Carey-Clinch: You make a very fair point. As I mentioned also in my response, the engagement goes beyond just basic pre-school leaver age and a schools-based curriculum. There is a role for local community projects such as those run in Wickham, north London and elsewhere around the country that engage those young people who are the most deprived and who are referred because of truancy issues. They are very effective in engaging young people, skilling them up in certain areas and giving them the feeling that education has value again as well as imparting certain messages about road safety education.
It is not just the case of motor projects but also in many other areas. I am sure that others round the table would be able to come up with some of those things. You are absolutely right that to focus just on schools would be too narrow an answer. We need to look at community-based education projects using road use and road safety as a way of engaging young people in other areas and helping to skill them up. It can be an extremely valuable resource where they are properly supported.
Q55 Chair: Mr Semple, should it be compulsory for lorries to be fitted with sensors to make cyclists more visible?
Jack Semple: The issue of cyclists and lorries is clearly a very important road safety issue. Ironically, it has become increasingly important at a time when, as I understand it, the KSI rate has in fact reduced for cyclists, particularly in London. To put it in a little bit of context, the University of London reported that overall the number of people killed in accidents involving HGVs over a period of about 10 years fell by 45% up to 2007.
However, this is an issue that the RHA and I believe the entire haulage industry certainly takes very seriously. Trucks are basically good for cities. They bring food and jobs to people and are essential. If you look at what the issues are in terms of fatalities-my colleague on my left will correct me if I am wrong-there were 11 last year involving goods vehicles in London. It was of that order anyway. If we look at what is happening and what is the cause of these accidents, this is an issue that we are seeking to drill down further with Transport for London and the Met Police. It is not at all clear what is going on beyond the superficial detail. Clearly in some cases there has been driver error. In one case recently the driver was over the blood alcohol limit and he was on his mobile phone, which is clearly totally unacceptable.
We have heard a lot this morning in the earlier session about training of drivers. We have to appreciate that cyclists are also road users. The need for cyclist training is very strong and has been recognised by cyclists’ groups and TfL.
In terms of what has changed, the lorries that are coming into London are getting safer. We have seen a very rapid increase of cyclists who may have a fairly low level of appreciation of risk. In some cases they are careless as to the risk. It would appear that some of these serious accidents are as a result of cyclists doing what they are advised not to do.
In terms of sensors specifically, there have been accidents involving trucks with sensors. We are aware of the possibilities of sensors. We believe that in the long run it is very likely that some sort of sensors will come into the HGV sector. I would be keen to see the results of research as to how many of the accidents in London, for example, would have been prevented by sensors. There is a risk that sensors create an additional input for the driver, who has a lot going on around him. We just want to be sure that they are not counterproductive.
I am sorry to give an answer at some length, but I would like to quote a piece in one of the haulage industry’s magazines recently-Commercial Motor. It describes a driver in London at 8.30 am: "Every time he stops at traffic lights he is surrounded by cyclists and has to be very aware of what is going on." The magazine did say that a number of these cyclists moved off on the red light, but we will leave that aside.
There is a very important issue for the haulage industry to be increasingly alert. That is something that we are bringing to our members. Our training organisation includes cycle awareness specifically in all its relevant courses. There is also an issue in terms of cyclist awareness. We have to be aware that there is a very rapid increase of cyclists who are not given very much instruction as to good road behaviour. This is a national issue. I know we have often focused on London in terms of the discussion, but this is a national issue. I wonder if there is more scope for cycle awareness training, even when they buy a bicycle. "What is the best way to operate your bicycle?"
From the haulage industry’s point of view, we are aware. A driver is acutely aware, above all, of his left-hand side, looking in his mirror and being aware of what is going around the vehicle but particularly on the left-hand side. The RHA is working to raise awareness further and we will be doing more on that.
Q56 Chair: Should the driver Certificate of Professional Competence include training about cyclists?
Jack Semple: As an HGV driver, you are trained and it is essential in all HGV driver training to be aware of what is going on around you, particularly, if you are turning left or pulling away from a junction, what is happening on your inside. In fact all car drivers should do the same, but it is particularly important for trucks. Cyclists is one area of awareness, but it is a particularly acute area because the consequences are so severe.
Ideally cyclist training should be part of broader road safety awareness training, but at the same time, if it is a specific issue for specific users, then by all means highlight it. That is what we have done as well.
Q57 Chair: Mr Geffen, there has been reference to the need for cyclists to be trained better as well.
Roger Geffen: I totally agree on the need for cycle training. The road safety strategy at the moment prioritises training for children. That is very welcome, but we think there needs to be training made available for adults who wish either to discover or rediscover cycling later in life to give them the confidence and skills to handle the major roads.
There are a whole range of ways to address the risks cyclists face from lorries. You are right to mention sensors and cameras. They are both very cheap. It is very cheap to fit lorries with these systems. You are right that there is a possibility that it adds to the sensory overload on the drivers, but it is also possible that it could save lives. Therefore, that is something else that should be tried.
We should be looking at lorry routeing and how we can simply reduce the number of lorries on the roads in our major towns and cities. We should be looking at the monitoring of drivers. The driver who was goodness knows how far over the limit and talking on his mobile phone had a whole history that should have taken him off the road. How come he wasn’t? There is a whole load of health and safety management.
We have to look at what continental Europe does. What do cities with far higher levels of cycle use do? In Holland, a lorry driver would be surrounded by a lot more cyclists. What are the solutions that are working and still mean that their cyclists are safer? The Government have many roles to play in investigating a lot of different, possible solutions to lorry safety and monitoring their effectiveness. That is important too. All of these things need to be monitored because we do not really know what works.
If I can just make one final point, lorry driver awareness training is also important. Lambeth council has been offering cycle training, not just cycle awareness training, to its fleet of refuse drivers. The feedback seems very positive. That, too, is something we should be looking at.
Q58 Julie Hilling: I want to follow up on this about motorcycles and whether there is more that needs to be done on motorcycle training in terms of vehicles and particularly heavy goods vehicles.
Craig Carey-Clinch: Motorcycle training and testing is currently subject to quite a lot of review processes. The simple answer is that modules that can help to raise awareness of riders of different hazards of road users are extremely important, but I would say this is a holistic process. We have all talked about the need for various road user groups to be made more aware of each other. If you look at the configuration, well over half of all motorcycle accidents are usually "looked but didn’t see"-type collisions.
With regard to lorries, it is important that young riders in particular are aware of the situation which faces cyclists. They must make sure they are aware that that lorry that has pulled out is not going to be turning left. There are modules that can be built in with this. As I say, the whole thing is under review at the moment. There is a DfT/DSA review along with the industry and user groups. Of course, as training progresses, with the introduction of the Trainers Register in the longer term, these are all things we will be considering.
Jack Semple: If I could come back briefly on a couple of points, I know the Government’s strategy paper identifies reducing cyclist casualties as one of its key priorities, along with children in poor areas. I am not sure that at the moment that is fleshed out in very much detail in the strategy document, unlike certain other areas.
It is very easy to focus attention on the HGV-operating community, who are absolutely essential to the economy and for the people who work and live in this country. Clearly, if there is a non-compliant driver, he is breaking the law just like anybody else who is breaking the law. He should not be, and there is not anybody in the industry, and certainly in the RHA, who would defend that sort of thing. We have to get the balance right here. The number of trucks on the road in the UK has reduced over decades. The number of cars and cyclists has increased. I am just a little wary that the debate might get skewed a little bit and focused on trucks. We are working to increase driving standards further. There is regulation which is becoming increasingly tight, with the possible exception of foreign operators which we have discussed. It is a difficult message but an important message. There is the need for the cyclist community to recognise that they are in effect vehicle users as well and they are the only sector of the vehicle users who do not have to show any demonstration of road craft. That is not to put over a message in any aggressive manner, but we have to understand what the issues are. Hopefully, that is a common position for us.
Q59 Julie Hilling: I also want to ask about physical fitness of drivers, particularly HGV drivers, bearing in mind the amount of sleep apnoea that is reputed to be affecting HGV drivers.
Jack Semple: There is quite a strong appreciation of sleep apnoea at the moment. From middle age, drivers have to have a regular medical every five years. There is obviously an onus on the medical profession to be aware of sleep apnoea as well. An employer has and recognises an obligation to be aware of health issues and driver competence issues. He has a very clear commercial as well as road safety interest in doing so. One area where we are getting increasing discussion is mandatory retirement at 65, which I think could be a bigger issue going forward. I know the CBI has expressed some initial concern on this in terms of HGV drivers. After age 65 an HGV driver has to have a medical every year. The Government and the state have said he is fit to drive, and for many firms that may create some degree of difficulty. We have members who have discussed this issue and there is some concern as to how this is going to work out in future. That is an area we will be watching very closely. We do not have a clear view from members generally, but at the moment, where we discuss it in a forum such as regional councils or whatever, there is a concern that this is not going to be good for road safety.
Q60 Julie Hilling: Should the testing be made more stringent? Clearly there are a lot of drivers who have sleep apnoea who are not being diagnosed. How do we change the current situation?
Jack Semple: The medical profession has an onus to identify where there is a problem, particularly when drivers go into the higher risk ages, and they are tasked by the Government with passing the driver as medically fit to drive.
Q61 Chair: The changes in motorcycle testing have been controversial. Could you give us a view, Mr Carey-Clinch, on how you see the current position in relation to safety?
Craig Carey-Clinch: In terms of the review, a six-month review that turns into 18 months plus is not exactly something we very much welcome. As we are all aware from a previous inquiry into this matter, the six or seven lines of European directive text has turned into a need for this multi-purpose test centre and millions of pounds spent, with a commensurate reduction in the accessibility of motorcycle testing and our great concern that we are seeing a culture of permanent learners emerging.
The test review is making progress, albeit somewhat slowly. I would say that the Ministers and officials at DfT have fully engaged this. They want to see progress and a conclusion that is a positive one. They have committed to a single event on-road motorcycle test, which would not be returning things to where they were but would be an adaptation of a test that is accessible and can be delivered outside multi-purpose test centres. Research is being done into this.
I would caution on items such as research, but, at the end of the day, a view has to be taken on the results of such research, which we have not seen published as yet, and to bear in mind pragmatism-for example, things like emergency stop and other manoeuvres which were done on the road quite safely in a test for in excess of 50 years. We do not see any reason why some of that should not be returned to the road.
We have been advised that there is a possibility that the new test will start to come on-stream in certain areas from next year. We would like to see that that broad commitment is kept to. In the meantime there is a wider review such as the Register of Motorcycle Trainers or Car Driver Trainers as well. That came in under the 2006 Road Safety Act. The register is something which we do welcome broadly. It is essential with regard to motorcycling that the position of approved training bodies is maintained and enhanced. We are concerned that an individual Trainers Register could result in a fragmentation of the whole system and a reduction in standards, when in fact the ATBs themselves provide a vehicle by which we can maintain, improve and monitor standards. This is something we very much want to see in the longer term.
To take a broader point, we are about to implement yet another European directive, which was introduced without the previous directive being evaluated for its effectiveness. The broad point is that, far too often, we see a maintenance of the imperative of vehicle control skills as being the things that are tested rather than the ability, mentality and skill sets needed to survive on modern public roads. This goes right across the board and it is something that impacts very much on vulnerable road users such as cyclists and motorcyclists, and also motorcyclists’ ability to interact with modern traffic. We feel that the Government should be far more hawkish if any further proposals for machine control skills are put into further European directives. If anything, further European directives need to correct some of the mess, complication and bureaucracy that has emerged from ones that have gone before.
Q62 Chair: But in relation to road safety.
Craig Carey-Clinch: This is in relation to motorcycle training and testing. With regard to the current review, we would like to see a speedy conclusion. We would like to see a conclusion which is along the lines of those commitments that were made by Ministers at the commencement of this Government.
Q63 Chair: Mr Semple, the Government’s road safety action plan includes measures on dealing with non-compliant HGV vehicles and drivers. From what you were saying before, are you suggesting that is not a very important area?
Jack Semple: It is a very important area. It is an important area for the Government. I hope that they maintain adequate financial resources to achieve what they want to achieve. That is our concern. Getting on for four years ago now, the Government substantially increased the amount of money they gave to VOSA specifically to tackle the foreign lorry issue. Clearly we want to ensure that that money is well spent. We are talking to VOSA at the moment about how we think they might do it better. Our concern would be that, if that money was removed or wound down, given that it was a three-year increase, we would return back to near zero, particularly at a time when the police have been disbanding some of their groups around the country at a county level that have experience in road haulage policing.
Q64 Chair: In your written evidence you talk about the problem of the lack of suitable places for drivers of HGV vehicles to stay overnight in safety. Is that a very big issue?
Jack Semple: We have probably one of the worst facilities for drivers in Europe. There is potentially a road safety issue here because a driver clearly wants to have an adequate place to stop and take his statutory rest period. It has to be a place which is suitable and secure as well. We have had extreme instances of police moving on drivers at the end of their driving day because the lorry parking area where they have stopped is deemed to be insecure. That is at the extreme. The basic point is that there are not enough places in many parts of the country for a driver to stop and take a statutory rest.
Q65 Paul Maynard: As a point of information, I know that one of the unimplemented sections of the 2006 Road Safety Act was the ability of the Secretary of State to designate road picnic areas. If that was implemented and acted upon, would that be a step forward to solving this particular problem? That links into the tiredness issue that concerns us more generally.
Jack Semple: Provided there was provision for HGVs to stop there, yes, clearly. There are whole areas of the country. London is one and round about Dartford. There are others in the north-west and the midlands.
Chair: Thank you very much, gentlemen, for coming and answering our questions.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Bill Duffy, Campaign Co-ordinator, Pro-MOTe, and Jim Punter, Chairman, MOT Trade Forum, gave evidence.
Q66 Chair: Good morning, gentlemen. Welcome to the Transport Select Committee. Could I have your name and the organisation you represent, please? This is for our records.
Jim Punter: My name is Jim Punter and I am Chairman of the MOT Trade Forum. I am also an editor of the MOT Testing Magazine, which is a specialised publication for MOT testing stations and testers. I am the proprietor of a small independent garage in west London. The MOT Trade Forum supports the Pro-MOTe campaign.
Bill Duffy: I am Bill Duffy. I am co-ordinator of the Pro-MOTe campaign. I am also Chief Executive of Halfords Autocentres, which, for the Committee’s information, has a network of MOT test stations.
Q67 Chair: What is the current failure rate for MOTs, Mr Duffy?
Bill Duffy: There was recent information from VOSA that showed on Class IV MOTs-which is cars and car-derived vans-it is around 39.8%. It was 40.6% in the previous year.
Q68 Chair: What are the areas where the failures are found?
Bill Duffy: They are principally safety-related things that should concern us. The main areas are brakes, which account for about 11% of the failures. Steering and suspension account for around 15%. Lighting is almost 19% of the failures. These key safety areas, as we would class them, would be around 45% of all the MOT failures.
Q69 Chair: Do you get the impression that drivers are taking a deliberate decision not to look at the maintenance of the vehicles because they know they are coming in for an MOT test? It was suggested to us in evidence earlier today that that might be an attitude.
Bill Duffy: The importance of the MOT, which was one of the reasons we raised this with your Committee because we were amazed that it did not appear in the Government’s safety framework at all, is that it makes a very good contribution to road safety. In this country people have become very dependent on the MOT as a safety read-out on how their car is doing. There is certainly evidence to suggest, even from the MOT fail rate itself, that people are not maintaining their cars as well as they used to. In 2005 the fail rate was 33.5%. The MOT has not changed very much, only little bits round the edges. There is a very distinct trend of a worsening vehicle parc in terms of condition. Certainly garages and motoring organisations are seeing many more breakdowns related to poor maintenance. There are a lot more illegal tyres and some very serious braking issues.
Q70 Chair: Do you have any evidence that you could provide us with which would show that?
Bill Duffy: It would be a pleasure to take any member of your Committee, or the Committee, and visit any MOT test station to see the condition of cars that are coming in. The MOT fail rate itself is a very good indication of that worsening trend in the vehicle parc.
Q71 Chair: Would you support any changes in the system?
Bill Duffy: Yes, I would, but I might add to my previous answer that VOSA statistics are showing that there are over 800,000 vehicles per annum out of the 26.8 million tests done that are regarded as dangerous to drive. That is an increasing trend. Of those 800,000 in the most recent statistics, 83% were for the key safety items that I mentioned earlier.
In terms of supporting changes, the Pro-MOTe organisation is about the single issue of urging the Government not to reduce MOT frequency because it is dangerous. With regard to Halfords and our involvement with other trade associations, we can see that the MOT has been around since the early 1960s and could do with improvement. We have given some ideas to the Transport Minister on how those could be improved. I would be happy to supply those ideas and thoughts to the Committee.2
Q72 Chair: We would like to know those, if you could send us that.
Bill Duffy: We would be happy to send those to you.
Q73 Paul Maynard: Just continuing on that point, if the Government wish to reform the MOT and to change it in the way you have described, is this the wrong reform or is it just that the MOT should stay as it is? What are the risks of doing nothing and changing nothing at all?
Bill Duffy: Of course, even with the current system we have a high fail rate. Four in 10 cars are failing. Even at three years old, when the first test is done, we are seeing about 20% of cars failing. Those are not good statistics, remembering that we are all supposed to have our cars legal and roadworthy at all times, not just on the day of the MOT. The MOT itself has to help us all improve road safety. We should be looking to reduce the failure rate. That will only come about by improving maintenance standards and conditions of cars.
The last Government looked at this issue for three years, between 2006 and 2008. Their very authoritative report in 2008 showed that up to 400 additional road deaths and 2,500 serious injuries would be caused by a change in frequency. It is this one serious point of the review and the proposals that the Government are currently thinking of that concerns us the most.
There are other areas of the MOT that could be changed and reviewed. For example, it does not look at the latest technology and safety systems in cars such as ABS and other electronic systems that are in the car that could contribute to road safety if we knew that they really worked, but they are currently not part of the MOT.
Q74 Julie Hilling: Are the failure rates skewed at all by people taking their car for their MOT and then getting the work done on it afterwards? They are deliberately taking it in to see what it is going to fail on. Does that skew figures in any way?
Bill Duffy: To the degree that they are skewed I do not know, but I would agree with your general idea. We think that in the UK it has become the thing to do. You have the MOT to find out what is wrong and just fix that. Some of the statistical rise is because people are not spending money on their cars and the condition is deteriorating. Because the MOT industry in the UK tends not to charge for a retest, which they can do if the customer has work in the garage, they tend to think, "The retest will be free; so I will just find out what’s wrong and I’ll fix that." To what extent it skews the figures, I do not know. Certainly the condition of cars is deteriorating.
Q75 Julie Hilling: When you talk about the condition of cars deteriorating, is there anything about the modern car that leads to that deterioration?
Jim Punter: Yes, there is. In fact you will find that longer service intervals and the better reliability, which is ironically one of the central planks of the Government’s idea that they might reduce the frequency of MOT testing, has the contrary effect. If people can drive their cars, nothing goes wrong and they do not have to worry about taking it for a service so frequently, they are misled into believing that that means that everything is fine in the car, and it is not necessarily so.
I can add to your earlier point. One of the reasons why the culture in this country tends to turn around the annual MOT is because there are only two countries in Europe where you can have your vehicle tested and repaired at the same place. That is in Holland and Britain. In the rest of Europe you have to go to a stand-alone testing facility.
I can add to something that the gentleman from the Institute of Advanced Motorists said here. He queried why the French first failure rate of four years is 5%, whereas ours is 20% at three years. If a Frenchman wants to get his car MOT tested at four years, if he takes it in for the test and it fails, he then has to take it to another garage to have it repaired, and take it back to that first testing station to have it tested again and pay twice. In our country, by and large with most testing stations, you can take it into your testing station and, if the car fails, you can leave it there and then collect it later. You will probably not be charged the retest. That of itself is likely to have an effect on increasing the initial failure rate because people go into the MOT testing station for the express purpose of finding out what is wrong, rather than knowing that it is going to pass because they have had it serviced prior to that.
Q76 Julie Hilling: Can I add as well that it is not just about leaving your car at that MOT testing station? There is also an arrangement as I understand it-certainly with the person who does my MOT-that the mechanic will take it there and you do not pay for a retest as long as you take it back that same day. I am just checking that I am right. You don’t have to leave it for the people who are doing the test to repair it. There is not a second charge, even if somebody else does it.
Jim Punter: It can happen in three different ways. You can have your car MOT tested and it fails. You can leave it at the testing station, go home and then pick it up later when it is repaired together with an MOT certificate. You can take your car away and have it done somewhere else, at a different car repair business. You might go to Halfords, for example, instead of your local little independent garage. Halfords then effect the repairs, and, if you want to, you can take it back to the first garage because if they have a marketing offer of "retest free" you will not have to pay for another retest.
There are these variations in the market; there are a number of different ways that it can be done. The whole point is that in this country, because we have this combination of both test and repair at the same premises, it is a significantly less burden on motorists than it is in other countries where the motorist has to do a double journey and go to a different place to have it repaired from where he has it tested.
Bill Duffy: I would add, just to help, that certainly the former Secretary of State’s view was that cars are much more reliable, they are more technologically advanced and therefore why do we have to test them so often? Even extended warranties fool people into thinking that the car is going to be safe for longer.
As Mr Punter mentioned, with extended service intervals, you now think they are indestructible, but the tyres still wear out at pretty much the same rate. The bulbs in the lights go out and the brakes wear. It is those safety things that the MOT helps people capture and keep safe. This is where the two things are disconnected. Cars are definitely better than they were and more reliable, but they still need to be safety checked annually in order to protect road safety.
Q77 Julian Sturdy: Given what we are hearing about people taking their cars to be MOT’d to find out what is wrong with them in the first instance, we have talked about safety issues, but the potential change that would take you to a two-year test is going to have a huge impact on the industry, jobs and local garages. It will potentially change the whole nature of the process. Has the process changed in France? What are your views about how, if this comes into place, the process will change and how that will impact on the local industry and local garages?
Bill Duffy: Certainly France has had the system for some time, as have many parts of mainland Europe. It has been interesting to note recently that the EU are talking about increasing the frequency of testing from their current 4-2-2, perhaps in the direction of what we do here, which we call 3-1-1. It would have an impact on the industry. It may be interesting just to capture the safety statistics for the Committee’s information. The most recent piece of work was a small study done for the Department for Transport by TRL. They suggested that, if 4-2-2 was introduced, then within a couple of years, if behaviour did not change among motorists-and their premise was that 50% of motorists were going to be conscientious, as they are now, about maintenance, repairs and safety of their cars, and 50% were not, which I think are scary statistics anyway-the MOT failure rate would likely increase from around 40% to between 52% to 60%. That is the kind of behavioural projection that they suggest.
Statistics that we have done for the Pro-MOTe campaign and looking at this question show that in fact not only would it cost jobs in the MOT repair industry, and particularly young people’s jobs and apprentices who tend to be very involved in this part of the industry, but it would cost the country about £1.4 billion additional costs. That is in our submission to the Committee. That is because of loss of revenue and VAT to the Government. Additional road death costs, even conservatively, are estimated to be around £900 million. Economically, it is a bad idea. It is expensive for the country in terms of road deaths and loss of jobs. At the level of the motorist himself we have produced some recent work, which again we would be happy to supply to the Committee, which shows that he could expect to pay about £57 more per annum than he does now. He would save on the MOT, but he would have increased repair costs if behaviours did not change. That shows that at the motorist level and at the country’s level this is a bad idea. It is dangerous and unwanted by motorists, as we heard earlier from the AA, who are members of the Pro-MOTe organisation. It would be expensive for motorists and for the country.
Q78 Julian Sturdy: Has there been any evidence about behavioural change in Europe when the switch came in?
Jim Punter: There has not been any significant change in Europe. The only change in Europe was in the Dutch test, as I recall, where they changed the frequency for petrol cars and kept diesel cars the same for political reasons. In Holland you could have exactly the same vehicle, a Fiesta or an Escort, and if it is a diesel it is tested every year and if it is petrol it is tested biennially. That is the only real significant change. Throughout the rest of Europe they have all sorts of variations. In Germany, for example, they have 3-2-2, so the first test is after three years and then it is two years thereafter.
There is significant variation throughout Europe as to how they implement the test. It is implemented by a directive which is not prescriptive about the process of the test; it is merely prescriptive as regards the content of the test. The British test is probably the best in Europe. I have seen MOT testing throughout Europe. It is highly prescriptive by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency as to how testers do it. The testers themselves are highly controlled as to what happens to them if they do it wrong. There is a very sophisticated disciplinary system with regard to penalty points and short-term cessation. You cannot test for a month and it goes beyond that as well. We probably have the best quality of testing in this country as well as the annual test. It is perhaps a big contributory factor as to why, historically, we have among the very best road safety record in the world.
Q79 Julie Hilling: Following on with standards, is there any evidence of MOT test centres saying, "I will give you the certificate as long as you get this fixed"?
Jim Punter: We do not know the evidence, but that is fraud. There are very few cases that are clearly fraudulent. The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency have an intelligence section. If they hear of fraudulent MOT testing, they will carry out surveillance. It is something like the television detective series. They will commandeer somebody’s bedroom overlooking the testing station and see the vehicles going in and coming out. They can get a live record of what is happening on the test because the MOT computer can be linked to the laptops of their vehicle examiners. They will normally prosecute, but there are not that many prosecutions each year. There are about six to 10.
With regard to MOT test quality, they carry out what they call a compliance check. A computer will randomly select a testing station and they will then send two of their officials to the testing station. They will retest a car that has been recently tested. They do this on about 1,000 or more tests each year to get some idea of what the compliance rate is. That compliance rate was running at round about 10% or 12%, but after the Davidson Report they changed the way they did the checks day-to-day, rather than the compliance checks, to a risk assessment system rather than the vehicle examiners going into the testing stations on a regular basis.
This took a bit of bedding down. The compliance rate went to a 15% error rate, but in the last annual report from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency it went down to 12%. Within that 12% there is an interesting factor. A test can be done wrong either because a pass certificate is issued where it should have failed or the other way round. Despite a lot of press coverage that testing stations failed vehicles to get the repair work, a higher proportion of that 12% are vehicles where testers passed the vehicle when they should have failed it rather than the other way round. I know the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency are putting a lot of effort into getting that 12% down to a lot lower.
The trade bodies can urge their members to do better, but ultimately it is a highly controlled situation and we are working very closely with the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency to do better. There is in fact going to be a disciplinary review with meetings between VOSA and the trade later this month on 26 January to start seeing how we can improve quality more broadly.
Q80 Chair: I would like to clarify two points. How many jobs would be lost in the industry? You mentioned jobs and apprenticeships going. Do you have any numbers for that?
Bill Duffy: I will send you the evidence in the report. We talk in our estimates of up to 40,000 job losses in the industry.
Q81 Chair: If you have any estimates on apprentices as well, we would like to receive that, please.
Bill Duffy: Absolutely; they are contained in that. We believe that the industry recruits up to 30,000 young people every year, many of them into proper apprenticeships. It is a very big employer.
Q82 Chair: It would be helpful if you could send us any information.
Bill Duffy: I will certainly send you that.3
Q83 Chair: The other point is that, in looking at value for money for the motorist in having the MOT test as it is, could you repeat the figures that you gave for the cost of the MOT test compared with the money saved on additional repairs that would be required if you did not have them as often?
Bill Duffy: Of course, yes. We can give you the full detail on that. On average we have said that motorists would incur annual savings of about £24 a year if the regime went to 4-2-2. That is a saving of £20 on an MOT fee, some personal time and fuel costs in travelling to the station. Motorists would incur increases in costs of about £82 from additional repairs-and we go through why that is-and additional insurance premiums estimated by the ABI to be around £46. The ABI regard the MOT as a useful risk guardian.4 Therefore, they feel that less frequent MOT testing means more risk. There are also additional fuel costs. That is where we derive it from. I will send the Committee this information for the motorist and for the UK as well.5
Q84 Chair: Finally, are you equally concerned about the proposed lengthening of time before the first MOT and the subsequent stages?
Bill Duffy: Absolutely, yes.
Q85 Chair: Is it equal? It isn’t one rather than the other.
Bill Duffy: Just more than half of three-year-old cars are generally company cars owned by businesses and fleets. You might expect they would look after those extremely well. Just under half of them would be for private individuals. 20% of them still fail their first MOT. The latest DfT study shows that that would go up to 40% if we moved to four years. That is also a very dangerous idea from the point of view of road safety and how that would contribute to road deaths. They estimate that that alone could add 50 or so to the road deaths figure in the UK each year.
Chair: Thank you very much. We will be pleased to receive any further information on the areas we have identified. Thank you, both of you, for coming and answering our questions.
 I wish to make it clear that I wasn’t calling for numerical targets/indicators to be disapplied across the board, but that they should be disapplied to walking and cycling.
 See Ev 137
 See Ev 138
 I wish to make clear that while the ABI (Association of British Insurers) does indeed believe that less frequent MOT testing means more risk, the estimated additional insurance premiums of £46 contained in our report, “A cost too far”, is ours and not the ABI’s. Pro-MOTe has written separately to the ABI to inform it of this error too.
 See Ev 138