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Road Safety

Volume 636: debated on Thursday 1 March 2018

Since becoming road safety Minister, I have met the hon. Gentleman several times, as well as a broad range of road safety organisations and others with an interest in road safety, to discuss many different issues. Those institutions include RoadPeace, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the RAC, the AA and many others.

I congratulate the Minister on his keen interest in this subject; I have been impressed by him so far. However, is it not the case that there are still 1,720 knocks on the door by a policeman or a policewoman who says that your daughter, your son, your mum, your dad, your grandmother or your grandfather are dead? That is the truth, so we cannot be complacent. Can we now look to having a national investigatory body to investigate every death on the road? Will the Minister also talk to his overseas development colleagues, given that 1.3 million people worldwide die in road accidents every year? Is it not time that we did something to help them?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, we are very closely involved in supporting nations around the world to raise road safety standards; he has been involved in that himself. With regard to a national body, we have looked at that. I am sure that he will take some comfort from the fact that only today we are laying regulations that allow driving instructors to undertake motorway driving with learners. That is part of a much wider pushback to improve driving quality and reduce fatalities.

The previous Transport Committee’s June 2016 inquiry into all-lane running concluded that 8% non-compliance with red X signals was unacceptable. In their response, the Government agreed, promising to tackle it through a combination of education and enforcement. In January this year, the chief executive of Highways England wrote to me with an update, stating that

“we have reduced levels of non- compliance with red-x signals to 8%”.

How can it be acceptable for the Government to be continuing to roll out all-lane running when it appears to have made zero progress on reducing these dangerous driving offences?

As the hon. Lady will be aware, a study has been done on all-lane running showing that, if anything, it may be safer than the previous arrangements, and that is to be welcomed. We will be making an announcement on red X signals fairly imminently.

Does the Minister not recognise the correlation between his Government’s decision to scrap road safety targets, introduced by Labour, and their failure to reduce the number of those seriously injured or killed on our roads?

I am a little reluctant to get into the statistics game with the hon. Gentleman. He will be aware, however, that for the year ending September 2017 road fatalities fell by 4% and overall road injuries fell by 5%, compared with the previous year. The picture is mixed and generally heading in the right direction.

In December 2015 the Department for Transport published the road safety statement “Working Together to Build a Safer Road System”, and we are making excellent progress in delivering its objectives. I am pleased to announce today that the Department has, at our third attempt, commissioned an objective scientific study to understand the relationship between tyre degradation, the passage of time and the effect on tyre safety. Two earlier attempts to commission that research were unavailing. The guidance given has been very effective in this area, but that marks a further move towards better road safety.

My constituents Julian and Gill Smith, who tragically lost their daughter Rhiannon nearly a year ago in a car collision, are now campaigning for better preventive action. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) and ask that the Minister looks seriously at calls by campaign groups such as Brake to establish a UK road collision investigation branch, so that we can have more crash data and evidence to prevent deaths and injuries on our roads.

As the hon. Lady says, that is a tragic incident for the family concerned, and one’s heart goes out to them. As I said to the hon. Member for Huddersfield, we continue to look closely at the possibility of setting up such a national body.

In the last 15 years, there have been 340 casualties on the notorious A417 near the Air Balloon pub. There have been 148 accidents in the last five years alone. Will my hon. Friend join me in warmly welcoming the landmark of reaching the consultation stage on the shortlisted new roads scheme? Does he agree that, by backing that project, this Government are committed to saving lives on Gloucestershire’s roads?

Of course I welcome that. As my hon. Friend will be aware, it has been the product of a great deal of hard work by local campaigners and the Department over a considerable period.

Would the Minister consider reducing the drink-drive limit? The reduction in Northern Ireland and Scotland has led to fewer deaths and injuries on the road and less work for the police. It is surely the most obvious thing to do.

We continue to keep the situation under review. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, there have been moves in that direction in Scotland. As that policy works its way through, we will continue to look closely at the issue.