HC Deb 10 February 1997 vol 290 cc3-4
2. Mr. Michael Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many fatalities attributable to drivers falling asleep at the wheel there have been on the M180-A180 since it was opened. [13345]

The Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. John Bowis)

Such information is not normally collected by central Government, but I understand that Loughborough university carried out a study of accidents on this route over a one-year period. In that time, there were four fatalities, resulting from accidents that were related to driver fatigue.

Mr. Brown

I am glad that my hon. Friend has had the opportunity of seeing the Loughborough university study. Will he confirm that the case put by Professor Jim Horne in the report—I hope that my hon. Friend has a copy—is that there is clear evidence that if one travels in an easterly direction, particularly on the A180 towards Grimsby, accidents or fatalities may be caused by the fact that the road has certain conditions that cause drivers to go to sleep? Will my hon. Friend consider introducing a national study using Professor Jim Horne's work in the report?

Mr. Bowis

I have seen the report to which my hon. Friend refers. It shows that the accident record of the A180 is lower than the average for that sort of road, but rather higher in terms of the number of accidents involving driver fatigue while travelling in an easterly direction towards the docks. That may have something to do with the nature of the road, the length of the journey or people not complying with the advice in the highway code. I will certainly draw the attention of the Highways Agency to the matter. A national study looking at counter-measures to combat tiredness is being conducted by the same Loughborough university team, which will take on board the points raised by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Dalyell

As one who has been in close contact with Jim Home for three years regarding two constituency cases and his sleep laboratory, may I ask whether his funding is thought to be adequate? Will the Government interest themselves in the proposed closure of the sleep apnoea laboratory run by Neil Douglas in Edinburgh, as the two work closely together?

Mr. Bowis

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising both those points. We keep closely in touch with centres of excellence in research, and the main research has been commissioned through the Transport Research Laboratory. The work started in 1992, and we expect the finished report in April this year. It certainly will be interesting to see what comes of that work. I am not aware that funding has been a problem, but I will certainly look into it.