PQs 6th – 9th Feb 2012

Driving: Older People
 
Graham Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether her Department has assessed the efficacy of (a) self-assessment and (b) the use of a compulsory medical assessment to determine the fitness to drive of older people. [93829]
Mike Penning: No formal assessment has been undertaken by the Department, on the efficacy of self-assessment or the use of compulsory medical reviews to determine the fitness to drive of older people, independent research and recent publications on the elderly and driving, report that there is no evidence that greater intervention had a positive effect on older driver road safety.
Each year around 70,000 medical investigations result from self declaration at age 70 and over. For those who declare that they have a medical condition, medical reports and appropriate medical and driving assessments are used to determine fitness to drive.
The declaration of whether a medical condition affecting driving fitness is present including confirmation that a number plate can be read from the appropriate distance, has proven to be effective.
The current medical licensing regime supports Great Britain having some of the safest roads in the world.
PACTS comments: Mr Penning is right in saying that there is no evidence that stricter licensing requirements for older drivers have a positive effect on road safety. Across Europe there are varying degrees of regulation, from Sweden (a world leader in road safety) where there are no older age-related restrictions, to Finland where regular medical check ups and licence renewals are compulsory.
However, there is more that could be done to support older drivers in the UK. PACTS recommends that the government develop a course accreditation system or standard course for older drivers, which could be available throughout the country. An in-depth study of older drivers’ safety should be a foundation on which to develop the course. As a first step, the Department for Transport should create an index of the range of education and retraining courses aimed at older drivers currently offered around the country. 
 
Cyclists: Accidents
 
Question
3.28 pm
 
Asked By Baroness Gardner of Parkes
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to reduce the number of serious bicycle accidents in London.
 
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am sure that all noble Lords will agree with me that every road accident is a tragedy. With regard to the roads in London, under devolution it is for the mayor and Transport for London to decide their cycling priorities and allocate their budget accordingly. We will of course continue to work closely with them to improve safety.
 
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: Is the Minister aware that more women cyclists are killed or suffer very serious injuries on these junctions than men? The reason, it is believed, is because the women wait at the red lights and the men go through them. Large vehicles turning left have a degree of difficulty in seeing people. For that reason, I would like his comments on the so-called “Trixie” mirror-not named after me, and nothing to do with me, I might add-which is proposed for large lorries. Will he also suggest that the Government look into the possibility of the system just being introduced in Paris whereby at dangerous junctions they will have specific lights for cyclists?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Baroness asked me about the male/female ratio. We are aware of the hypothesis. The figures for accidents are mercifully low but, unfortunately, increasing. It is difficult to extract measurable data to formulate policy or make effective regulations. The noble Baroness also talked about “Trixie” mirrors; these mirrors are placed on traffic signal posts and help HGV drivers to see cyclists on their near side in the blind spot at signalised junctions. The department provided approval to TfL to extend the use of these mirrors across the cycle superhighway network, and it will consider further requests for “Trixie” mirrors by other authorities. Unfortunately, I was not aware of the situation in Paris.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that in the present mayor’s time in office accidents have actually increased? It is thought that he has increased the free-flowing of cars and lorries through the junctions, and reduced the time for pedestrians and cyclists to go across. He has also reduced the amount of space on the road for cycle lanes, and things like that-in spite of bringing in the new “Boris bikes”, which of course we all welcome. Could that be looked at? Do the Government think that the idea of a £200 million fund from the Campaign for Better Transport in London to help cycling facilities would help to reduce deaths?
 
Earl Attlee: My Lords, it is true that, in 2011, 12 out of the 16 cyclist fatalities in London involved a goods vehicle, with seven involving construction vehicles, but it is too early to see whether there are any undesirable trends. Both Transport for London and my department will study these matters very carefully indeed.
Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: Will the Minister indicate what proportion of these accidents are caused by people jumping the red lights, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, suggested, and what the Government are doing to encourage the police to enforce the provision?
 
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the last point is the important one. It is an operational matter for the police how they enforce the law. Clearly, the mayor and other authorities will look closely at the police’s performance in driving down road traffic casualties generally, but in particular those of cyclists, because they are vulnerable road users.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, the “Trixie” mirrors to which the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, referred, have to be fitted on traffic signals and have to receive the assent of the Department of Transport under present regulations. Most authorities that wanted to use them would have to submit a form to the department for the Secretary of State or his representative to sign. Would the Minister look at that bureaucracy? He mentioned that the Government were re-examining the regulations with a view to improving them by 2014, but I do not think that comes under the definition of “soon” that we heard on an earlier Question.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Lord makes an important point about the need for the department to approve traffic signs. It is important that the traffic signs are consistent right across the United Kingdom to avoid a plethora of different designs of traffic signal, which would be very confusing to motorists.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, without trying to lay blame on cyclists or lorry drivers, we want to promote safer cycling and a greater awareness among lorry drivers? I venture to suggest that the problem is not just in London, although I cycle practically every day so I am aware of it. For the Minister’s benefit, I can say that the Paris experiment is about allowing cyclists to go through red lights where the situation is safe, so that will be interesting. Finally, could he give us any information on the number of accidents where wearing a cycle helmet would have improved the chances of a fatality not occurring?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the Government encourage the use of cycle helmets but we think it undesirable, as did the previous Administration, to make them compulsory because this could have the unintended effect of reducing cycling despite its undoubted health benefits. On the question of turning left, my noble friend Lord Spicer has an Oral Question about left turns coming up shortly (27th Feb). As part of my research on that, I have just had a working lunch with the chief examiner of the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
 
Lord Cormack: My Lords, would the roads of London not be less congested and safer for cyclists, and indeed for us all, if there were restrictions on the hours in which delivery vehicles could operate?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Lord has asked a slightly wider question. There is a freight operator recognition scheme-FORS, a membership scheme-that aims to improve freight delivery in London. It is free, voluntary and open to any company operating vans or lorries in the capital. It has been developed by TfL and is a reward and recognition scheme with the aim of improving safety and operational efficiency.
Cyclists: Penalties
 
Question
Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon
To ask Her Majesty’s Government when the penalty for the offence of riding a bicycle on the pavement was last increased.[HL15352]
 
Earl Attlee: Cycling on the footway became a fixed penalty offence in 1999. The fixed penalty was increased to the current level of £30 in 2000.
If pursued through the courts the current maximum fine is £500.
Dangerous Driving: Sentencing
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on the sentencing of car drivers found to be responsible for road traffic accidents involving the (a) injury and (b) death of cyclists. [94122]
Mr Blunt: There is regular communication between Ministry of Justice and Department for Transport Ministers about policy of mutual interest, although not specifically on the subject of road traffic incidents involving cyclists. Careless driving can destroy lives and have a devastating effect on victims and their families, which is why making roads safer is our priority. Anyone who causes death by careless driving will face a prison sentence of up to five years, and will automatically lose their licence if they are found guilty.
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the (a) type and (b) length of sentences awarded for offences of causing death by careless driving; and if he will make a statement. [94124]
 
Mr Blunt: The offence of causing death by careless driving was introduced by the Road Safety Act 2006. This legislation will be formally reviewed in due course as part of the coalition Government’s commitment to the post-legislative scrutiny process. The offence of causing death by careless driving carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment together with a compulsory minimum of 12 months driving disqualification.
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what representations he has received from (a) organisations representing cyclists, (b) organisations promoting road safety and (c) individuals on the (i) type and (ii) length of sentence awarded for offences of causing death by careless driving. [94125]
Mr Blunt: Since May 2010 the Ministry of Justice has received a number of letters from individuals directly and via their Members of Parliament on the subject of sentencing for causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving.
 
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the consideration given to previous driving offences in determining sentences for those convicted of (a) causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, (b) causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs and (c) causing death by dangerous driving. [94127]
Mr Blunt: Sentencing decisions in individual cases are a matter for the independent judiciary, having regard to the facts of each offence. Section 143(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 requires courts to treat a previous conviction as an aggravating factor if it can reasonably do so, having regard to its relevance to the current offence and the time elapsed since conviction.
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if (a) he and (b) Ministers in his Department will meet members of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group to discuss sentencing guidelines for dangerous driving and other traffic offences. [94206]
Mr Blunt: Sentencing guidelines are issued by the Sentencing Council for England and Wales. The council is independent from Government. As a result it would not be useful for me or for other Ministry of Justice Ministers to meet with the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group to discuss the detail of sentencing guidelines.
Roads: Accidents
 
Graham Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many road traffic accidents were caused by drivers who had made an incorrect declaration of their medical condition in each of the last three years; (2) what proportion of fatal road accidents were caused by drivers diagnosed with a medical condition which was (a) not declared to the DVLA and (b) declared to the DVLA but the driver’s licence was not withdrawn in the last year. [93828]
 
Mike Penning: The information requested is not available. The STATS19 system used to collect reported personal injury road accident data does not include driving licence information.
However, Table RAS50001, in the DFT publication ‘Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain: annual report 2010’ shows the number and proportion of reported personal injury road accidents which had “uncorrected, defective eyesight” or “illness or disability, mental or physical” recorded as a contributory factor, in Great Britain in 2010. It is not known if the conditions relating to these contributory factors were diagnosed medical conditions or whether they were declared to the DVLA. Table RAS50001 can be found using the following link:
http://www.dft.gov.uk/statistics/tables/ras50001/
Note that contributory factors are reported only for injury road accidents where a police officer attended the scene and reported at least one contributory factor. These factors are largely subjective, reflecting the attending officer’s opinion at the time of reporting. It is recognised that subsequent inquires could lead to the reporting officer changing their opinion.
 
Active Travel Strategy
Lilian Greenwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent progress has been made by her Department with the Department of Health on the development of an active travel strategy. [94067]
Norman Baker: The Department for Transport and the Department of Health have set out their support for active travel and its benefits in the “Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon” and “Healthy Lives, Healthy People” White Papers in 2011 and 2010 respectively. The Departments continue to work together to promote and support active travel.
Cycleways
 
Bill Esterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what recent assessment she has made of the cycle lane network across the UK; [93986]
(2) what plans she has to encourage the creation of new cycle lanes in urban areas. [94017]
Norman Baker: 98% of roads are managed and maintained by local highway authorities and it is their responsibility to consider and implement the appropriate cycle facilities for their area. We encourage local authorities to consider the needs of all road users. However, funding is generally not ring fenced as the coalition Government believe that local authorities, and not Whitehall, are best placed to determine the right solutions for individual areas. We therefore have made no assessment of the provision of cycle lanes across the UK.
The Department has created a new £560 million Local Sustainable Transport Fund to support packages of sustainable transport measures which support economic growth and help to reduce carbon emissions. Local authorities are expected to work in partnership with their communities to identify the right solutions to meet the economic and environmental challenges faced in their areas.
To date, £155 million has been awarded to 39 projects, many of which include new cycle lanes, supported by complementary measures such as cycle training, facilities and promotional activities. I intend to announce the successful bidders for the remaining funding by this summer.
M1: Road Traffic Offences
 
Mr Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what offences other than speeding have been detected by the fixed gantry cameras on the M1 motorway in (a) Nottinghamshire and (b) Hertfordshire; and if she will make a statement. [93599]
Mike Penning: The fixed gantry-mounted cameras on the M1 motorway in Nottinghamshire and Hertfordshire do not detect offences other than speeding.
Speed Limits: Schools
 
Mark Menzies: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussions her Department has had with Lancashire County Council on variable 20 mph speed limits outside schools. [94543]
 
Norman Baker: My officials have had various discussions with officials in Lancashire county council on this subject between April 2011 and January 2012.
In October 2011, the Department for Transport issued a national authorisation to all local authorities (including Lancashire) which permitted them to erect traffic signs to indicate advisory part-time 20 mph speed limits without further reference to the Department. Authorities may continue to apply to the Department for authorisations to permit the erection of signing to indicate mandatory part-time 20 mph speed limits.
An authorisation for the use of the signs to indicate a mandatory part-time speed limit at 12 school sites was issued to the council in January 2012.
Dangerous Driving: Convictions
 
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what assessment he has made of the number of drivers convicted of (a) causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, (b) causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, (c) causing death by dangerous driving and (d) manslaughter within (i) less than 12 months and (ii) between 12 and 24 months of passing their driving test in each of the last five years; [94224]
(2) how many drivers were convicted of (a) causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, (b) causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, (c) causing death by dangerous driving and (d) manslaughter in the case of a road traffic accident in which a cyclist was killed in each of the last five years. [94123]
Mr Blunt: The Ministry of Justice Court Proceedings Database holds information on defendants proceeded against, found guilty and sentenced for criminal offences in England and Wales. This database holds information on offences provided by the statutes under which proceedings are brought but not the specific circumstances of each case. It is not possible to identify from this centrally held information the length of time since a driving test has been passed or whether a manslaughter offence is related to a road traffic accident.
The number of defendants convicted for (a) causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, (b) causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, (c) causing death by dangerous driving 2006 to 2010 (latest available) can be viewed in the table.
Annual court proceedings data for 2011 are planned for publication in May 2012.
Defendants found guilty at all courts for selected motoring offences, England and Wales: 2006-10 (1, 2)
Guilty
Offences 2006 2007 2008 (3) 2009 2010

Causing Death by careless or inconsiderate driving(4)

n/a

n/a

4

81

238

Causing Death by Careless Driving when under the influence of Drink or Drugs

65

67

46

35

41

Causing Death by Dangerous Driving

223

233

221

225

154

n/a = Not applicable (1 )The figures given in the table on court proceedings relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offences for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences it is the offence for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe. (2) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used. (3) Excludes data for Cardiff magistrates court for April, July and August 2008. (4) In August 2008 section 2B of the Road Traffic Act 1988 was added by the Road Safety Act 2006. Source: Justice Statistics Analytical Services—Ministry of Justice.
Roads: Accidents
Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many fatal road accidents involved drivers (a) under 25 years, (b) under the influence of alcohol, (c) using hand-held mobile telephones and (d) who passed their driving test in the 12 months preceding the accident in Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency in each of the last five years. [94443]
 
Mike Penning: The information requested on item (a) is detailed in the following table:
(a) Number of reported fatal road accidents involving drivers under 25 in the Westmorland and Lonsdale (1) parliamentary constituency 2006-10
Number of accidents
Westmorland and Lonsdale (1) 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010

Fatal accidents involving driver under 25

3

2

1

0

1

(1) Based on 2010 parliamentary boundaries.
Information relating to items (b), (c) and (d) is not available at parliamentary constituency level. However the Department does collect information on factors contributing to road accidents, which is available at regional level. The relevant figures for north-west region are given in following table:
Number of reported fatal road accidents (1) in the former north-west Government office region by contributory factor 2006-10
Number of accidents
Contributory factor reported in accident 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010

(b) Driver impaired by alcohol

34

24

24

21

13

(c) Driver using mobile phone

2

5

1

0

0

(d) Learner or inexperienced driver/rider

8

8

9

8

4

(1 )Includes only accidents where a police officer attended the scene and in which a contributory factor was reported.

 

The contributory factors reflect the reporting officer’s opinion at the time of reporting and are not necessarily the result of extensive investigation. Moreover it is recognised that subsequent inquires could lead to the reporting officer changing his opinion. It is important to note where some factors may have contributed to a cause of an accident it may be difficult for a police officer attending the scene after the accident has occurred to identify these factors.
 
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