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Motorway Accidents

Volume 979: debated on Wednesday 20 February 1980

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asked the Minister of Transport if he is satisfied with his Department's encouragement of measures to reduce the danger of accidents caused by lorry-induced spray on wet motorways.

We are continuing to look for more effective ways of reducing spray but there is no simple design solution. The only obvious but effective remedy is for for drivers of heavy vehicles to keep their speed down in wet weather and for other drivers to keep clear of them where possible and ensure that windscreen wipers are in good order.

Would my hon. Friend be prepared to consider some form of consultative document that would encourage vehicle and vehicle component design—particularly of tyres—so as to make some contribution to reducing vehicle-induced spray?

A great deal of research is going on, using the Department's engineers, TRRL and Southampton university, into possible means of reducing spray from heavy goods vehicles. My hon. Friend has great expertise in the matter of tyres and I agree that improved tyre design would help. No design solution has so far been found but we are continuing to look for better methods.

Has the Minister noticed this afternoon the stream of complaints about lack of maintenance on motorways, and the problems of heavy traffic? Is there not a case for subsidising British Rail freight so that lorries can be taken off the roads and their loads carried by rail? We would thus conserve energy and at the same time preserve our vital rail network for the future.

The previous Government rejected any form of direction of traffic. They found, as everyone else found, that that was totally impracticable. The two modes of transport are often not in direct competition as some forms of traffic are more suitable for rail and other forms are more suitable for roads. The answer is to try to accommodate both methods using the resources available and making a sensible choice of priorities.

Is the Minister aware that juggernauts are becoming an increasing menace everywhere? The particular problem on motorways is that juggernauts are going too fast in the centre lane for ordinary motorists. Is he aware that they often give the private motorist a difficult time, and, if the private motorist will not yield, they move into the fast lane which causes difficulties on overcrowded motorways? Will the Minister look carefully at the problem and give advice to the hauliers and their drivers?

I agree that juggernauts are not popular. It is obviously necessary to carry on designing our roads to take traffic out of residential areas, where it is a particular nuisance. I agree that there is bad behaviour on motorways but sometimes private motorists hog the middle lane and stop the faster-moving heavy goods vehicle drivers making the progress that they would wish along the central lane. We give guidance in "Driving" about proper behaviour on motorways. We hope that motorway driving standards in all types of vehicles will improve.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he could be accused of complacency following his answer to the original question? Does he not realise that the spray from heavy lorries is most dangerous? I am quite sure that it causes many accidents and creates much fear among motorists. Will the Minister please give this matter priority in his research?

I said that we are undertaking research and have placed a new research contract in November last year with Southampton university. This is a serious problem and we have not yet found the solution to reducing spray.