HC Deb 27 November 1995 vol 267 cc914-5
7. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many pedestrians have been killed at pedestrian crossings in the past five years; and if he will make a statement. [649]

Mr. Norris

In all, 541 pedestrians were killed at crossings in Great Britain between 1990 and 1994, but there was a 25 per cent. decline in the yearly totals over the same period.

Mr. Coombs

Does my hon. Friend agree that, although those figures obviously show very satisfactory progress in the right direction, they are still far too high? Frankly, should we not expect that pedestrian crossings are safe places for pedestrians to cross roads? Will my hon. Friend therefore initiate discussions with representatives of the police and ask them to give closer attention to monitoring the behaviour of motorists and pedestrians at such crossings to enable improvement of the figures still further in future?

Mr. Norris

I will, of course, bear very much in mind what my hon. Friend has said. I should point out to him one or two important matters. First, pedestrian fatalities are at their lowest level since records began in 1926. Secondly, a Uniroyal survey showed that about 90 per cent, of pedestrians who used signalled crossings, including pelican crossings, crossed the road against the red pedestrian stop light; perhaps pedestrians should bear that in mind. The survey also showed that 95 per cent. of all motorists in London stopped immediately at a zebra crossing when pedestrians were waiting to cross.

Mr. Barnes

Are cameras not one of the most effective ways in which to control traffic, because drivers then obey the rules? Would it not be fruitful to have more cameras in the vicinity of pedestrian crossings to ensure that people's behaviour there was correct? Would it not be helpful, therefore, for the Government to supply county councils and others with the funds to install cameras?

Mr. Norris

The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. It is certainly true that camera technology has helped us tremendously with speed reduction. It has saved dozens of lives and it has overcome any initial reservations about its use. We have in mind the extension of camera technology for precisely the reasons that the hon. Gentleman outlined. I hope that he will appreciate that I cannot give undertakings at this stage about the untried project to which he referred. However, we bear it very much in mind.

Sir Irvine Patrick

I thank my hon. Friend. What steps is he taking to ensure that councils, such as Sheffield, adequately illuminate pedestrian crossings and deal with dangerous junctions, such as the one at Abbey lane and Abbeydale road south where another serious accident took place as recently as last Saturday?

Mr. Norris

Guidelines are published by my Department on the installation of pedestrian crossings and one of the matters that are considered is their illumination. My hon. Friend is right to draw to the House's attention the fact that, for every local authority, there can be no more important function than trying to reduce the utterly needless waste of 70 lives which, tragically, are still lost on our roads each week.