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Road Safety

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2007

8. What plans she has for measures to reduce the number and severity of injuries arising from collisions between vehicles and pedestrians. (149834)

The Government, local authorities and road safety organisations are working to reduce pedestrian casualties through education, engineering and enforcement. From October 2005, passenger cars and light vans are required to provide protection for pedestrians in their design. This is the first legislation of its kind. A second stage of requirements will apply from 2010.

The Government are to be congratulated on their part in the recent ban on the manufacture and sale of bull bars—what the Americans call killer grilles—the macho fashion accessories that concentrate and multiply the force of an accident at the level of a child’s head and vital organs. However, being a pedestrian is still twice as dangerous as travelling in a car. Have the Government any more plans to restrict the use of very heavy vehicles, particularly those with non-flexible fronts?

May I return the compliment and congratulate my hon. Friend on the campaigning he has done on this issue over a considerable time? The Government are serious about improving the safety of pedestrians and we made a significant contribution to the development of the European legislation that he mentioned, including the personal protection directive of 2003, the frontal protection systems directive of 2005, and the second phase of the personal protection directive of 2003, which will be introduced in 2010. My hon. Friend has contributed to ensuring that from 25 May 2007, new vehicles have had to be fitted with a frontal protection system approved under the directive, and that from the same date, any frontal protection system offered for sale as an accessory must be approved and carry an approval mark. We will continue to monitor these issues.

Does the Minister agree that one of the most effective ways of reducing the number and severity of injuries is to reduce the default speed limit on lit urban roads to 20 mph?

That is an issue for local authorities to decide. We have given them the power to introduce reduced speed limits in areas where that is appropriate. The hon. Gentleman is well aware that the Government set out their road safety strategy in 2000 and indicated their targets for reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured by 2010, so it is lower than the average figures for 1994 to 1998. We are well on our way to meeting those targets, but we should not be complacent, because there are some differences in scale. We need to make sure that we press for a reduction in that number, and the speed restrictions that the hon. Gentleman requests can certainly play a part in our campaign.