HC Deb 21 February 1968 vol 759 cc426-7
23. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Transport if she will make a statement on the results during the first four months of the use by the police of breathalysers.

Mrs. Castle

Deaths and serious injuries in October were 14 per cent. lower than in October, 1966. Deaths in November fell by 20 per cent. and serious injuries by 15 per cent.

The full analysis of the December figures is not yet complete, but we know already that deaths fell by 33 per cent. and serious injuries by 22 per cent.

While it would be wrong to attribute all these reductions to one single cause, I am satisfied that the new law on drinking and driving is the principal reason for these striking improvements.

Mr. Wall

Can the Minister say whether those very satisfactory figures have been achieved largely by fewer drivers on the roads in the evenings after closing time or whether they show that drivers are drinking less?

Mrs. Castle

No. When we published the October and November figures we gave our traffic estimates. Traffic increased by 4 per cent. in October and by 2 per cent. in November. In December there was a slight fall of 1 per cent. in traffic. We recognise the point about night traffic, because it is at night that the reductions have been most dramatic. In November we carried out a special analysis on night traffic. We estimate that over the month as a whole car traffic between 10 p.m. and midnight averaged 1 per cent. higher and between midnight and 4 a.m. it was 1 per cent. lower than in November, 1966. The corresponding reductions in casualties for these hours were 49 per cent. and 39 per cent. respectively.

Mr. Bob Brown

Can my right hon. Friend give an estimate of the lives which could be saved in a full year if this improvement were to continue?

Mrs. Castle

When the law was first introduced, I estimated that it might save 200 lives a year. If the November figures are maintained, the saving will be 1,600 lives a year.