HL Deb 17 April 1989 vol 506 cc541-2

Baroness Macleod of Borve asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will encourage the installation of a third brake light in the rear windows of motor vehicles.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

Yes, my Lords, provided that they do not dazzle following drivers. We announced in the motorway safety package last year that we would discuss with other EC countries the possibility of requiring high centre-mounted brake lamps on new vehicles. These discussions are continuing.

The existing law does not prevent voluntary fitment of these lamps. To avoid dazzle we are proposing that stop lamps fitted in the rear windscreens of new cars in future should be half of the intensity of standard brake lamps.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that encouraging Answer. Is he aware that in a nose-to-bumper situation, which occurs frequently on all our roads including the motorways, the conspicuity value of lights in the rear window will be of enormous help to all drivers?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the Transport and Road Research Laboratory found that improved driver reaction times resulted from the use of such lamps, particularly where obligatory brake and rear position lights were combined.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, most noble Lords will appreciate the common sense in the Minister's reply. Is he aware that many of us have complained to ourselves time and again about the dazzling which occurs from such rear lights; therefore, we appreciate the fact that their power will be limited?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I understand that, although we are making regulations to reduce the intensity of the rear lamps, manufacturers who fit them as standard are doing so already.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, is the Minister aware of the innovation of an electronic braking system that is increasingly being fitted to more expensive cars? Is he also aware however that it is being used as an enhancer of performance rather than as a safety device? Is he aware too that it causes accidents involving other people whose cars are not fitted with that system? Is there not an argument for cars having a sign in the back indicating that they are so fitted?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am not sure of the system to which the noble Viscount refers. Therefore, I cannot say whether it would be good to have a special sign on cars fitted with the system.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of a related point to the Question put by my noble friend? It is the distance at which cars follow each other, especially on motorways. Is he aware that in general cars follow each other far too closely and do not have the braking power to avoid a rear collision? Is he able to bring to the attention of the police the need to enforce more clearly the regulation concerning the distance between cars?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, my noble friend makes a good point; I am sure we are all personally aware of such incidents. Time and time again the department emphasises the fact that people should not travel too closely behind the car in front, and that is made clear in the Highway Code. Obviously, the police should enforce that requirement where possible and any assistance that can be given would be welcome.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his excellent replies. Is he aware that in the United States all cars must be fitted with such brake lights?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

Yes, my Lords, that is the case, as it is in Canada. I believe that when they were first fitted there was a considerable improvement but that there have since been complaints about dazzle.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, can my noble friend say what is the ideal distance between two cars travelling on a motorway at 70 miles per hour?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, it is that within which one could stop safely should anything happen to the car in front.

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