Private Members Bill – James Gray, MP
First Reading – Wednesday 17 January 2001, House of Commons
Second Reading – Friday 9th February 2001.
Click here for a link to the Hansard coverage of the debate on 9th February
Mr. James Gray presented a Bill to:
require local authorities to take measures to safeguard motorists and pedestrians from the effects of snow and ice;
to require local authorities to assess the appropriateness of speed limits;
to simplify the procedure for making speed limits;
to ban the use of hand-held telephones by drivers of motor vehicles;
to amend the law with respect to the wearing of seat belts;
and to extend the area within which mandatory travel concessions outside Greater London apply.
PACTS supports this Bill and has released the following Briefing:
The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety welcomes the Bill promoted by James Gray under the title “Road Transport Bill”. It believes that the Second Reading of the Bill offers an opportunity for Members of Parliament to discuss issues of key importance to road safety: the need to continue to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads.
In March 2000, the Government published a new strategy for road safety in “Tomorrow’s Roads – safer for everyone”. This set targets for further casualty reduction of
40% in the number of people killed or seriously injured in road crashes
50% in the number of children killed or seriously injured
10% in the slight casualty rate, expressed as the number of people slightly injured per 100 million vehicle kilometres.
Published on the same day but with slightly less publicity was an important background paper, “New Directions in Speed Management – a review of policy” and a statistical analysis of the context of the new target, “The Numerical Context for setting national casualty reduction targets” (Transport Research Laboratory Report 382).
Also relevant to the debate on Friday are two recent pieces of Government legislation. The Transport Act 2000 placed a duty on the Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions to conduct a review of speed limits in rural areas and to produce a report within a year of the Act receiving Royal Assent (Section 269). The Vehicles (Crime) Bill, which completed its passage through the House of Commons on January 30, will allow the national roll-out of additional funding for local authorities and police forces for further safety camera activity through the retention of an element of the fine income raised from camera activity.
Taking Action on Speed-Related Road Crashes
Speed, whether excess (breaking the posted speed limit) or inappropriate (driving too fast for the conditions), is a contributory factor in as many as one in three road deaths. A road user’s choice of speed increases both the level of personal risk and the risk posed to other road users. Put graphically, hit at 40mph 19 out of children are killed. At 20mph, 19 out of 20 survive. In urban areas, 69% of drivers break the 30mph speed limit. In the same areas, over 50% of road deaths are among the vulnerable road user groups: children, pedestrians and cyclists. Reductions in urban traffic speeds will bring significant safety benefits for vulnerable groups.
Clause 2 of the Bill will place a duty on local traffic authorities to prepare a speed limit review for the roads under their jurisdiction. This should be seen as the first step in the process of setting speeds appropriate for the usage and function of each road within an area. Undertaking a review should lead to the adoption of a strategic response to speed management. Roads should be assessed according to their function and patterns of usage and given speed limits that reflect these. Where necessary, traffic calming measures or safety cameras would then be put in place to achieve levels of speed reduction. PACTS welcomes the adoption of a strategic approach of this kind as it should lead to greater consistency within and between local authorities.
As already highlighted, the Government is currently committed to a review of speed limits in rural areas. This Clause extends the remit of a review to include urban areas, an important step forward for vulnerable road user groups.
Speeding traffic is a blight on the lives of many communities. Fear of traffic leads many parents to be reluctant to allow their children to go out to play or to walk or cycle to school. It leads many parents to take their children everywhere by car, thereby adding to the concerns about levels of car usage. While initiatives such as Home Zones are welcome, their effect will be limited until area-wide approaches are adopted.
Use of mobile phones
The use of mobile phones while driving has been a cause for concern for some time. The advice in the Highway Code is clear: “You MUST exercise proper control of your vehicle at all times. Never use a mobile phone or microphone when driving” (paragraph 127). In addition, a report from the Transport Research Laboratory has concluded that ” manual dialling and intense telephone conversations have been shown to cause considerable distraction and … may impact on safety ” (TRL report 318, “The Use of Mobile Phones while Driving: a review”, 1997).
Although it may be difficult to point to specific crashes involving drivers on mobile phones, the creation of a new offence as proposed here would send a clear signal to all road users that the most important task is that of exercising control of a vehicle. Driving is a complex task requiring maximum concentration. Distractions from this task should be kept to an absolute minimum.
Seat belt wearing
Clause 5 closes the loophole within existing legislation exempting “local” delivery. Although the number of lives saved through this will be relatively small – 12 per year according to DETR estimates – the closure will again send a message to all road users of the importance of seat belt wearing. A recent estimate of the effectiveness of front seat belts suggests that at least 370 deaths and 7000 serious injuries have been saved every year since their wearing became compulsory in 1983. There is now no reason why “local” deliveries should be exempt from this requirement.
The Bill is supported by Mr. Andrew F. Bennett, Mr. Brian H. Donohoe, Mrs. Eleanor Laing, Mr. Tim Loughton, Mr. John MacGregor, Mr. Bill Olner, Mr. Martin Salter, the Rev. Martin Smyth and Sir George Young