HC Deb 18 March 1959 vol 602 cc387-9
26. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the causation and make recommendations as to the prevention of road accidents.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Harold Watkinson)

Road accidents and their prevention have been exhaustively studied by specially constituted committees, including the present Committee on Road Safety. I am not satisfied that in the circumstances the appointment of a Royal Commission would be justified.

Mr. Cronin

As the figures for pedestrian mutilation on the roads are achieving a macabre record every year, is not it clear that the situation is out of control? Can the Government afford to neglect any measure which might limit this evil?

Mr. Watkinson

That is why I think it will be much more important to get on with immediate measures. I do not accept that the figures are out of control. If the hon. Member studies them in relation to the growth in the number of vehicles, he will find, I am glad to say, that the growth in the number of vehicles is much faster than the relative growth in the number of accidents.

35 and 36. Mr. Moss

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (1) if he will state, for a recent convenient period, what percentage of injuries sustained in road accidents in the case of motorists, motor cyclists, cyclists, pedestrians and motor car passengers, respectively, were injuries to the head;

(2) if he will state, for a recent convenient period, what percentage of deaths in road accidents caused by head injuries are due to concussion.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)

The information for which the hon. Member asks is not available, but statistics prepared by the Registrar General for England and Wales show that in 1957, out of a total of 4,898 deaths in motor vehicle accidents 2,534 were due to fractures of the skull, and a further 566 to other head injuries.

Mr. Moss

Can the hon. Gentleman do something to make these statistics available? Is he aware that research has already been done on this subject in various countries, and that it reveals that between two-thirds and three-quarters of the injuries—and over three-quarters in the case of motorists—are injuries to the head? Is it not most important to find out the facts?

Mr. Nugent

I am not quite sure how they would help us, but I will certainly see whether it is possible to analyse the statistics for road accidents so as to provide this information, and to see what use could be made of it, if that is possible.

Mr. Strauss

As most of the injuries to motor cyclists are head injuries, and as the move towards the wearing of crash helmets does not appear to be advancing very quickly—there are still very large numbers of motor cyclists who are not wearing them—could not the Parliamentary Secretary do something, either directly or through some organisation, to encourage more people to wear crash helmets?

Mr. Nugent

I quite agree that it is very important that motor cyclists should wear crash helmets, and that they prevent many serious head injuries. I believe that about 50 per cent. of motor cyclists now wear them, and that is quite a satisfactory beginning. I will certainly con- sult the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents to see if it could mount a further campaign to encourage the wearing of crash helmets.

Mr. H. Morrison

is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the United States there is an extensive use of belts in motor cars—rather similar to those used in aircraft? Has he an opinion about that? Would he investigate to see whether belts would be useful in this connection?

Mr. Nugent

We have, of course, considered the possibility of a more extensive use of belts in motor cars. In aeroplanes, of course, we strap up the belts only when the plane is starting and when it is landing, and it would be very difficult to get drivers—and, indeed, passengers, which is more important still—to wear belts throughout the whole length of the journey. That is really the problem, and I think that it is up to the manufacturers to see whether they can make the wearing of belts more attractive.