HL Deb 18 February 1986 vol 471 cc502-4

2.41 p.m.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are taking any steps to prevent accidents on motorways in bad weather conditions.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am pleased to tell my noble friend that in the past fortnight we have issued full advice on winter driving to newspaper feature writers; and, as part of our wider programme, the current phase of the rolling publicity campaign is directed at motorway driving. But ultimately safety depends on individual drivers responding to the prevailing conditions.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, while I thank my noble friend the Minister for that very encouraging reply, may I ask him whether he has drawn the attention, through the press, of motorists who still drive with blurred front and rear lights which cannot be seen in adverse conditions? Furthermore, may I ask my noble friend whether it has ever been suggested that hazard lights, which draw everybody's attention, could or should be used in adverse circumstances on the roads?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, we draw the attention of people to the need to keep their lights clean at all times and in good working order. This year we shall be sending a little reminder leaflet out with people's vehicle excise duty reminder forms—therefore it will go to some 20 million people—concerning the use of lights on cars. With regard to the second part of my noble friend's question, there are mixed views about the use of hazard warning lights on moving vehicles. The use on the move is at present prohibited under the Road Vehicle (Lighting) Regulations 1984. It is a definite point that to be effective hazard lights should be used sensibly and sparingly. There is a risk of overuse and their misuse could lead to confusion to other motorists.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, when the noble Lord mentioned the press, does that include the broadcasting authorities?

Lord Brabazon

My Lords, I understand that it includes all parts of the media.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, I have asked this question on a previous occasion, but I should like to ask the noble Lord the Minister again whether anything can be done to stop or at least discourage the use on vehicles of excessively bright rear lights during times of bad visability on motorways, as they are dazzling, dangerous and, frankly, against the law?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, yes, that is against the law. This is one of the features to be included in the little leaflet which will be sent to all those renewing their tax discs this year. It states: Do not switch on rear fog lights just because it is dark or raining. Use them only when visability is less than 100 metres, and remember to switch them off at other times".

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, at this stage is my noble friend prepared to say whether the Department of Transport will consider the offer being made by an electronics company to light the whole length of the M.25, as was stated on the news last night, and which the police seem to favour, in order to reduce accidents in fog?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, yes, the department is considering that proposal at the moment. However, as I am sure my noble friend knows, at the end of the day it is up to the driver not to drive too close to the vehicle in front whatever the circumstances, whether the road is lit or unlit, whether it is foggy or whether there are perfect driving conditions.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I should like to follow up my noble friend's question. Most noble Lords will agree with the Minister's reply that this is a personal responsibility. However, can radio and television programmes be used not just to issue warnings but to give information concerning the proper use of vehicles in bad weather? When warnings of bad weather are broadcast, are they broadcast on all programmes or merely on Radio 1 and Radio 2?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, if I may deal with the second of the noble Lord's questions, I am not sure how wide an exposure the information receives, but I hope that as a result of the briefing advice that we have sent to all motoring and transport correspondents, with suggestions as to what they might include both in articles that are written and presumably radio broadcasts, our suggestions will be heeded.