HL Deb 24 February 1986 vol 471 cc815-7
Lord Brougham and Vaux

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to improve the driving standards of all road users in European Road Safety Year, and whether they will consider sending to all drivers a copy of the Highway Code through the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre to remind drivers of their responsibilities.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, we shall continue throughout European Road Safety Year and beyond to take every opportunity to remind road users of the need for better driving standards and behaviour. The Highway Code provides full information and is sent by the DVLC free of charge to all motorists at the start of their driving or riding career.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Does he agree with me that many drivers seem to forget what the Highway Code is? Does he agree that during European Road Safety Year greater effort should be made to improve driving standards? In this respect will my noble friend consider sending a reminder, as announced by his noble friend last week, showing the Ten Commandments in this excellent handbook called Roadcraft?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that the publication Roadcraft, to which he has referred, is an excellent publication. It is the police driving manual and it is aimed at those who have good driving experience. The department publishes a book called Driving which is the definitive document and covers all stages of driving from the commencement.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, as this is European Road Safety Year and the Minister has said that every opportunity will be taken to impress upon motorists the importance of this matter, does he recall that last Tuesday the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, asked a Question about driving in winter conditions? I asked a question about the use of television and radio. Is this not an excellent opportunity to use television and to make a series demonstrating to all motorists the proper way of driving?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, unfortunately, I was not here last Tuesday, but I have read the Question in the Official Report. Television is an excellent medium and although we can provide information to the television channels, it is up to them whether they use it.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, is it not true that we as a generation are much better drivers than our fathers and our grandfathers? Is my noble friend aware that the number of people killed on the roads in the 1930s was more than are killed now? We should keep this matter well in proportion.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his question. I confirm that since 1980 the accident rate has decreased.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, is it not the case that the sort of complacency that has been exhibited by the noble Lord opposite is precisely why books such as Roadcraft should be drawn to the attention of experienced drivers? Is it not the case that it is experienced drivers who get into bad habits over a long period of years and need them corrected? A book such as Roadcraft would bring us all up short and realise that we often need to relearn our craft.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I do not think that there is any complacency either from my noble friend or from myself. It is a statement of fact that accidents have decreased. I totally agree with the noble Lord that it is up to every individual to drive more safely. Any fool can drive badly enough to be dangerous.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend the Minister whether he knows how many people per year take and pass the advanced driving test? If that number proves to be few, will he encourage more motorists to take it?

The Earl of Caithness

I do not know the answer, my Lords; I shall write to my noble friend on it. Whether we can encourage people to take the advanced driving test, which is an excellent test, is something that the department can do in a limited way. It is up to the individual to be responsible and to take these things into his own hands.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, can the noble Earl tell us whether the new Highway Code includes any information about what "bus lane" means? The old one did not. Does "bus lane" mean anything more than "Careful chaps, you might meet a bus there"?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I think the noble Lord's point is a little wide of the Question on the Order Paper. However, I shall write to him.

Lord Ardwick

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that some parts of the Highway Code make no sense unless drivers are deterred from driving at 40, 50 and 60 miles an hour in cities?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I hope that all drivers drive within the speed limits. I know, according to a recent survey that we have undertaken, that some do not do so. But I hope that discussions such as today's Question Time will serve to reinforce the point.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that when the Institute of Advanced Motorists was formed—I believe I am one of the few founders left—there was a representative of the department on its executive committee? Can the noble Earl say whether there is a member of the department there now? If not, will he look at that?

The Earl of Caithness

I shall indeed look at it, my Lords.

Lord Edmund-Davies

My Lords, can the noble Earl tell us whether the information to be forwarded from the driving centre at Swansea will include the pamphlet which (to my consternation) informed me: Remember: on motorways there is no slow lane."? If it will, can we be informed of the statutory basis of such a restriction?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I shall have to look into that particular question.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, when the Highway Code is circulated, can a note be added to it or with it warning motorists not to change gear very noisily when they have to pass somebody who is riding a horse?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I think there is quite a lot of information concerning changing gear. I do not think it is in the Highway Code but in the department's driving manual to which I have referred.

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