Road casualties down but progress slows
The Department of Transport released Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain: Main Results 2013 on 28th June 2014. The final statistics for 2013 showed a 2% reduction in those killed and a 6% reduction in reported serious injuries; child casualties fell 9% to 15,956. The Government hailed these as the “lowest since records began”. PACTS Executive Director, David Davies welcomed the falls but pointed out that the pace of casualty reduction had slowed drastically since 2010 and called on the Government to step up its efforts.
UK Government ministerial reshuffle
In the July Cabinet reshuffle, a number of ministerial changes affected transport. Perhaps in recognition of the heavy departmental workload created by HS2, the Road Improvement Programme and the changes to the Highways Agency, the DfT now has a fifth minister. John Hayes (MP for South Holland and The Deepings) has been appointed Minister for State at the DfT whilst maintaining his previous cabinet role. He takes on responsibility for Highways Agency reform, national roads and the Infrastructure Bill.
Stephen Hammond leaves the Government, replaced as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport by Claire Perry (MP for Devizes and formerly assistant Government Whip at the Treasury). She takes over responsibility for rail (franchising, commercial, fares, Crossrail and other major projects), freight and logistics, transport agencies, corporation and better regulation.
Patrick McLoughlin remains in overall charge as Secretary of State. His responsibilities include transport strategy (including economic growth and climate change); spending review; transport security and High Speed Rail. Minister of State for Transport, Baroness Kramer, also remains in post, with responsibility for HS2 (phase 2), rail, cities and urban renewal, localism, devolution, equalities and other duties. Robert Goodwill remains as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for aviation, local roads, traffic, road safety, cycling, HS2 (Phase 1) and others. Ministerial responsibilities are available here in full on the DfT website.
Government and Parliamentary News
The UK Parliament has considered a number of safety-related legislative measures. We give a summary here.
The Infrastructure Bill has reached its 6th Committee sitting (House of Lords), with further sittings to be held. The Bill makes for provision for conversion of the Highways Agency to a government owned company, sets the framework for the Road Investment Strategy and establishes new watchdog and monitoring roles for the Office of Rail Regulation and Passenger Focus.
The Drug Driving (Specified Limits) (England and Wales) Regulations 2014 passed through the House of Lords on 24th July. With the new offence of driving with certain controlled drugs, including some prescription drugs, above specified limits due to come into force on 2nd March 2015, the DfT has released new guidelines to help healthcare professionals explain the new rules to patients taking prescription drugs. The limits for the majority of medicinal drugs are above normal prescription doses.
The Deregulation Bill which includes removal of “statutory option” to demand a blood specimen in addition to a breath specimen received its second Commons reading in July. It now awaits line by line examination in the Committee stage (yet to be scheduled). It is expected that this Bill will complete its Parliamentary stages by the end of 2014.
Other Government sponsored transport bills making progress include:
Private members bills
Several bills with transport safety implications have been introduced by individual MPs. However, these Bills rarely reach the statue book.
Martin Horwood MP introduced a Pavement Parking Bill to clarify, strengthen and simplify the law relating to parking on pavements in England and Wales, to benefit pedestrians. (Due to be read a Second time on Friday 12th September.)
Meanwhile Mark Lazarowicz MP presented theResponsible Parking (Scotland) Bill to amend Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998. (Due to be read a Second time on Friday 5th September.)
Annette Brooke MP (Mid Dorset and North Poole) presented the Protective Headgear for Cyclists Aged Fourteen Years and Under (Research) Bill for its first reading in the House on 15th July. (Due for its second reading on 12th September.)
Steve Rotheram MP (Liverpool Walton) proposed a Bill to introduce limits on the age of tyres on buses and coaches. The Tyres (Buses and Coaches) Bill would make it an offence to operate a public service vehicle with tyres that are 10 or more years old. (Due for its second reading on 28th November.)
Railways Bill sponsored by Caroline Lucas MP
The Prime Minister announced the response to consultation by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to allow on motor sport on public roads. The Government is planning to legislate to enable local authorities to stage motor sports events on public roads including: stage rallies, hill climbs and trials of speed.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has recently published its Annual Report and Accounts 2013-14 while the newly-formed Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has published the Driving Standards Agency Annual Report and Accounts 2013-14. Both agencies reported meeting almost all targets and operating within budgets.
Transport Select Committee
The Transport Select Committee published its First Report of Session 2014-2015, Driving Premiums Down: Fraud and the Cost of Motor Insurance, on the 4th July 2014. The Second Report, Offshore Helicopter Safety, followed on the 8th July and the Third Report Cycling Safety on 18th July 2014.
The Transport Select Committee has also announced the launch of an inquiry into Motoring of the Future and is inviting submissions of evidence before 15th September 2015. Oral evidence sessions are likely to start in late October.
Transport Oral Questions on the 10th July 2014 included several on the Highways Agency, airport connectivity and helicopter safety (see the PACTS website). The next Transport Oral Questions will take place on the 23rd October.
Recent Written Parliamentary Questions on transport safety have focused primarily on cycling; road safety; speed limits; road accidents and driver licensing. The written parliamentary questions from this period are available on the PACTS website.
Transport Safety Commission
The Transport Safety Commission is now well-underway with its’ first inquiry: UK Transport Safety: Who is Responsible? The Commission has held four oral evidence sessions at Westminster with witnesses from DfT and the devolved administrations, local government, transport user groups including Living Streets, IAM and CTC, academics and public health professionals. The Commission will hold further sessions in September, October and November. Details of past and future sessions are available here.
Transport Scotland are running a road safety campaign focused on parental influence and responsibility. They are also investigating the potential safety benefits of telematics “black box technology” and progressing plans to reduce the drink drive BAC limit.
The Scottish minister for Transport has expressed frustration with the DfT for its failure to publish a Green Paper on young driver safety or to progress consultation on graduated driver licensing. In Scotland’s view it would be difficult and expensive to implement GDL in Scotland alone under current powers. For example, under the Scotland Act, the Scottish Government can introduce a lower BAC limit but not for specific road user groups, for example, young drivers.
The Road Traffic Amendment Bill Northern Ireland has received its second reading in the Northern Ireland Assembly and is now at Committee stage. As reported in the May PACTS newsletter, this includes provisions to revise Northern Ireland’s drink-drive legislation, reducing the blood alcohol limit from 80mg to 50mg/100ml and limiting learner, novice and professional drivers to 20mg/100ml, with both supported by mandatory roadside testing. The Bill also introduces a graduated driver licensing scheme with a mandatory minimum learning period for new drivers but not restrictions on carrying passengers.
Northern Ireland has seen dramatic reductions in road deaths in recent years. 2014 however is proving challenging with 43 deaths to date compared to with 57 in the whole of 2013 (and 48 in 2012). There is currently no clear pattern or explanation for the 2014 figures.
Wales is continuing to implement the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. Consultation has just closed (4th August) on the statutory guidance for the delivery of the Act. This guidance is for local authorities. It sets out the processes and procedures to follow to deliver the requirements of the Act.
The Welsh Government is currently introducing mandatory seatbelts in school buses, partly in response to a particular incident. Wales has fewer regulatory powers than Scotland and Northern Ireland. (See road safety powers and devolution Appendix II.)
Transport for London has published the final Pedestrian Safety Action Plan following a public review period. The plan proposes action to cut pedestrian death and serious injury, including
- a trial of Intelligent Speed Adaptation on London Buses;
- London Pedestrian Design Guidance and
- a new ‘gold standard’ for all new and upgraded pedestrian crossings, including Pedestrian Countdown and tactile cones and/or audible guidance;
Public consultation has started on TfL’s plans for London’s first segregated cycle superhighway which will form part of Cycle Superhighway 5 and include a stretch of the Vauxhall gyratory.
European Road Safety News
PACTS and the ETSC have written to Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin urging the UK to support the EC’s proposal for a new Cross-Border Enforcement Directive.
The 8th Annual Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) Report was published by the European Transport Safety Commission on the 18th June. The report revealed that Sweden had replaced the UK as the country with the lowest number of deaths per million population. Slovakia was the EU country that has made most progress recently, cutting road deaths by 37% between 2010 and 2013.
The ETSC has released their latest PRAISE report making the business case for employer investment in work-related road safety management (WRRM) programmes. The Report analyses the potential benefits of such a programme, financial and otherwise, and maintains that these could outweigh the costs of implementation if managed correctly.
PACTS News – Coming events
- 9th September, Women and Alcohol: How much is too much? Breakfast briefing, Westminster
- 10th September, Rail Safety Working Party, ATOC
- 16th September, Road Safety Working Parties, Portcullis House, Westminster
- 22nd October, PACTS Autumn conference Safer Vehicles, at Thatcham Research, 10am-4pm
- 5th November, Tyre Safety – Parliamentary breakfast briefing, 8-10am, Westminster
- 6th November, PACTS Members meeting: Louise Lloyd and Brian Lawton, TRL: Which Roads Policing Strategies are Most Effective?2.30 at Portcullis House
- 8th December, 25th Westminster Lecture: Tony Bliss: Road safety in the 21st Century: public expectations of government. 6.30pm, Westminster
Details from the PACTS Office