HC Deb 10 February 1977 vol 925 cc1633-4
2. Mr. McCusker

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what additional measures are being taken to reduce road accident casualties in Northern Ireland.

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Ray Carter)

I have been gravely disturbed at the high incidence of road accident casualties in Northern Ireland. Accordingly I have taken the initiative of forming a study group, with members drawn from a wide cross-section of the community and charged with the following terms of reference:

  1. (a) To examine the problem of the high level of road casualties in Northern Ireland;
  2. (b) To consider the effectiveness of current and planned programmes which are designed to influence public attitudes on road safety;
  3. (c) To look at the options for future road safety action with particular reference to publicity, education and enforcement; and
  4. (d) To make recommendations.

Mr. McCusker

Does the Minister accept that his announcement will be welcomed in Northern Ireland? Does he agree that it is essential to remove the apathy that exists towards road accidents in the Province? Will he confirm that deaths from road accidents last year exceeded those caused by terrorism? Does he agree that road accident deaths are just as intolerable and tragic? Will he draw to the attention of the study group that he intends to set up the problems of young motor cyclists?

Mr. Carter

I agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman has said. The stark truth is that in Northern Ireland in the past two years almost 3,000 people have died on the roads—more than have died as a result of the civil disturbances. The fatal accident figure is over three times higher than the figure for the rest of Great Britain, and we must do something about it.

Mr. Hardy

Although my hon. Friend is right to take action about the tragic situation, has not the level of expenditure on roads in Northern Ireland over the last 10 years been substantially higher than in other parts of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Carter

That is quite true. Unfortunately, the level of road safety consciousness has not kept pace with road developments. If we get the two in step with one another, I am sure that the accident figure will drop.

Rev. Ian Paisley

What progress is being made in introducing road safety courses in schools?

Mr. Carter

Ironically enough, Northern Ireland has an excellent record in that matter. I have looked at the schemes used in the schools. There is a high incidence of education in all schools and at all levels, yet, surprisingly enough, this does not seem to have much of an impact on the level of road safety. I hope that this will be one aspect of road safety in Northern Ireland that the study group will be examining.