HC Deb 22 February 1939 vol 344 cc361-4
24. Mr. Mathers

asked the Minister of Transport whether he recognises that a large proportion of road accidents occur as the result of drivers of motor-vehicles drinking intoxicating liquor, though they are not so affected as to be described as under the influence of drink; whether he will arrange to have the number of such cases shown in accident returns; and whether he proposes to take steps to ensure that persons partaking of alcoholic drinks shall not drive a motor-vehicle within a certain stipulated time thereafter?

28. Mr. Cecil Wilson

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that the chairmen of the licensing justices at York, Leicester, and elsewhere made public comment at the annual licensing sessions last week on the large number of persons proceeded against during the year for being under the influence of drink while driving a motor-car; and whether he will seek to secure some improvement in the method of collecting statistics of road accidents so as to show the number of cases in which, on the admission of the persons involved, or in the opinion of the police, alcoholic beverages had been consumed by the driver shortly before the accident?

Mr. Burgin

I am not inclined to believe that a large proportion of road accidents can be attributed to drink. The extent to which the consumption of alcoholic liquor by drivers of motor vehicles may have been the contributory cause of accidents is, I am afraid, not susceptible of demonstration by statistics, nor do I think that trustworthy information on the point would be obtainable in the manner suggested. In the special investigation made in 1936–37 it was found that out of nearly 200,000 accidents 1,307 were attributable to drink or drugs as a primary cause, and in 567 cases the driver was the person affected. As at present advised I am not prepared to introduce legislation under which it would be an offence to drive a motor vehicle within a specified period after the consumption of intoxicating liquor.

Mr. Mathers

Is not the right hon. Gentleman rather transgressing the point he made on a previous question—that it required evidence? Is he not now expressing an opinion without adequate evidence? Is not the real snag in many of these cases that in order to bring home an offence to motor drivers who are under the influence of drink, they are charged with the minor offence of careless driving. because there is a fear in the minds of those who bring the charge that a conviction for the major offence would not be secured before a jury?

Viscountess Astor

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the evidence given before the committee which was set up by the late Minister of Transport, and also the recommendations of the medical committee which looked into this question and said that something should be done? Will he also bear in mind that 31,000 children under 15 years of age are injured on the roads every years?

Mr. T. Johnston

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the evidence submitted by the Scottish Sheriffs during the last two years as to the great preponderance of serious accidents caused by drunken drivers?

Mr. Burgin

I hope the House will not think from anything I have said that I desire in any way to condone the offence of driving under the influence of drink. I wish it to be as seriously punished as possible. But what I am endeavouring to deal with is a much wider problem, whether there is a large and growing proportion of accidents due to drink. The evidence does not support that statement. I will willingly examine information and statistics from any quarter because it is a real problem, and if we can solve it, so much the better.

Mr. C. Wood

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of having one fixed penalty for all cases of this kind?

31. Mr. Thurtle

asked the Minister of Transport whether his attention has been called to the large number of accidents which have taken place recently at the junction of Kingsland Road, Harman Street, and Pearson Street, Shoreditch; and whether he will take steps, in conjunction with the local authority, to have traffic lights set up at this point at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Burgin

I am aware of the accidents which have occurred at this junction recently, and am giving consideration to the local authority's suggestion that traffic lights should be installed.

Mr. Thurtle

Will the right hon. Gentleman endeavour to reach a decision fairly promptly?

Mr. Burgin

Yes, Sir. The renewal application reached me on the 18th of this month.

21. Mr. Liddall

asked the Minister of Transport the number of road accidents in the city and county of Lincoln, respectively, both fatal and non-fatal, for the year 1938?

Mr. Burgin

As the answer contains a number of figures I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the Official Report.

Following is the answer:

The numbers of road accidents involving personal injury in the city and county of Lincoln respectively during the year, 1938, were:

Police District. Fatal Accidents. Non-fatal Accidents.
City of Lincoln 261
County of Lincoln 86 1,703
Boston 1 41
Grantham 4 74
Grimsby 1 319
26. Mr. Muff (for Mr. Poole)

asked the Minister of Transport how many fatal and non-fatal accidents, respectively, have occurred on the Kingstanding Road during the year ended 31st December, 1938; what is preventing the completion of the dual carriageway on this road; and will he take steps to get the Birmingham City Council to proceed with this work during the present year?

Mr. Burgin

During the year ending 31st December, 1938, the total number of accidents of all kinds on this road was 94. One person was killed. I understand that the Birmingham Corporation do not consider that the present traffic on this road is sufficient to warrant the large expenditure which would be involved in the construction of a second carriageway throughout its length, but consider that priority should be given to other more urgent improvement schemes in the city.