HC Deb 20 June 1994 vol 245 cc2-3
2. Mr. Brandreth

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received concerning his proposals to reduce road accidents involving newly qualified drivers; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. MacGregor

Since issuing the consultation document "New Driver Safety", we have received more than 500 representations supporting action in that area. Given that support, I am now taking forward four main proposals: retesting for serious traffic offenders among young drivers; a separate theory test; post-driver training linked to lower insurance premiums; and road safety education at 16-plus.

Mr. Brandreth

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that we have the best record on traffic safety of almost anywhere in the world? Since records began in 1926, the statistics are better than ever, despite a 14-fold increase in the number of vehicles. New drivers remain a critically important area, as about 20 per cent. of accidents are caused by about 10 per cent. of licence holders. Can he give us some idea of the date on which he will be introducing the important measures that he outlined, especially that relating to post-driver training and insurance premiums?

Mr. MacGregor

I confirm that we have one of the best safety records in Europe and that the number of fatal accidents on the roads is lower than at any time than since accident statistics were first recorded in 1926. Given the huge increase in traffic, that is a substantial achievement. The greater proportion of accidents is among young drivers and new drivers generally. My hon. Friend is right to concentrate on that, as I have done. I hope to be able to introduce post-driver training linked to lower insurance premiums. Following my discussions with the major insurance societies during the past few months, I hope to be able to bring forward that scheme in the autumn.

Mr. Tony Banks

Although I welcome what the Minister said with regard to newly qualified drivers, will he tell the House what he is doing—and of his concern—about the elderly driver? Recently, there have been a number of accidents involving drivers aged 70 and over. Is not it about time that we set an upper limit, so that such people are retired from driving because, in certain cases, they are also a hazard on the roads? [Interruption.]

Mr. MacGregor

I heard an intervention from the Opposition Benches which suggested that the hon. Gentleman might take a different view once he reaches the age of 70. There is a much higher proportion of accidents among new drivers and that is why it is right to have special measures in that direction. The hon. Gentleman will know that retesting, medical certificates and so on are required for older drivers of a certain age and it would not be right to put a ceiling on those. Some people are capable of driving successfully and safely well beyond the age of 70.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

May I welcome what my right hon. Friend has said and put it to him that it would be wise if the theory test were not too complicated? It should test obvious rather than arcane things, as there are a few simple causes for most traffic crashes.

Mr. MacGregor

There has been a general welcome to the idea of having a theory test before new drivers go on to the practical test. We are developing the theory test now, working with the National Foundation for Education Research. The theory test certainly must be in place by 1996 and I will bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.

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