HL Deb 20 November 1990 vol 523 cc617-9

2.43 p.m.

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action is being taken to improve road safety in residential areas.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, we are undertaking a variety of initiatives including lower speed limits, a child safety publicity campaign and we have made local safety schemes eligible for transport supplementary grant.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very welcome reply. Does he not agree that such measures would further improve Britain's already exemplary road safety record?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

I hope so, my Lords. We in Britain have one of the best, if not the best, road safety records in Europe. However, we should still like to see it improved. Our target is for a one-third reduction in casualties by the year 2000. That is a tough target. We are at the moment particularly anxious about the increase in deaths of and casualties to children. We need to concentrate our efforts on that.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, does the Minister agree that drunks wandering around the road after the pubs close at night are a hazard to drivers and to themselves? Has he any good ideas for dealing with them?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I agree that they are a problem and a hazard both to themselves and to drivers. We are especially anxious about drunk-drivers; but those wandering around the streets drunk are equally a hazard.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the increasing amount of coach traffic in residential areas, particularly in central London, quite apart from being environmentally undesirable, is an added safety hazard? Can he say what could or should be done about this issue?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am not aware that coaches are driven more dangerously than motor cars. However, we are in the process of introducing measures on residential areas. They include new road hump schemes and new 20 mph limits.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, having regard to the Minister's proper anxiety about drunk-driving, is he aware that the British Medical Association has estimated that about 25,000 casualties last year were directly attributable to drunk-driving? Is there not therefore a very strong case for introducing a system of random breath testing?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, we are anxious about drinking and driving. It is and remains the biggest single cause of road accident fatalities—almost one-sixth of the total. The announcement in March of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary confirmed that existing police powers to stop and test are extensive and that they strike the right balance between effective enforcement of the law and the freedom of the individual. We shall continue to urge the police to make the fullest possible use of those powers.

Viscount Caldecote

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the use of humps in the road—so-called sleeping policemen—in residential areas has made a useful contribution to reducing the speed of vehicles in those areas and therefore to road safety? Is he prepared to look into the wider use of such sleeping policemen in residential areas and elsewhere in the interests of road safety?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I agree that road humps can and do make a considerable contribution. That is why we have recently made new regulations for the use of road humps. They are much simpler than the old regulations and permit even simpler requirements in new 20 mph zones.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, are the Government in any way alarmed about the way in which it is possible to advertise motor cars which are capable of speeds of at least twice the maximum speed limit in this country?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, advertisements should certainly contain nothing that is likely to bring the law into disrepute; and they should neither condone nor incite violence or anti-social behaviour. That includes speeding. They should not show or advocate dangerous behaviour or unsafe practices.

Lord De Freyne

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, may be on to a good point? Is he aware that the 30 mph and 40 mph signs have remained the same size for a great number of years? Can they not be made larger so that people can see them; and can they not also be illuminated?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I have not heard criticism of the size of the 30 mph or 40 mph signs before. If people cannot see to read that speed limit sign, they should not be on the road.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, referring back to the noble Lord's reply about the sleeping policemen humps in the road perhaps I may ask this. Is he aware that there is worry in many areas that these so-called sleeping policemen hinder the passage of ambulances and other emergency vehicles? The sleeping policemen are placed only a few feet apart from each other and are a constant hazard in long roads where ambulances have to carry very ill patients. Will he consider that point?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I shall certainly do so. Obviously it is not the intention that the sleeping policemen should interfere with the passage of vehicles of the emergency services. The regulations for the laying down of road humps should ensure that that does not happen.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, in view of the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Stallard about sleeping policemen, will the Government also bear in mind the fact that to be effective they must be reasonably numerous and situated close together? If they are spaced too far out, drivers simply accelerate between them thereby increasing noise and air pollution.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

Yes, my Lords; the distances apart at which they can be placed are laid down in regulations.

Lord Craigton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that what really matters is how fat the sleeping policeman is?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

Yes my Lords; or, indeed, any policeman. The design of sleeping policemen is specified. We have made various changes to the regulations governing their design, including flat-topped humps.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, the Question on the Order Paper refers to "residential areas". I think the Minister will agree that the figures show that there are more accidents in urban areas than in other areas. Therefore, is not the problem one of enforcement? Further, what discussions are taking place with the various police authorities as regards enforcement? In this connection, I refer especially to rat runs which are a great menace in residential areas.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, enforcement is a matter for the police. I have already mentioned the introduction of 20 mph zones with road humps. The object of those is that they will be self-enforcing.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, we have given this issue a pretty good run. I suggest, therefore, that we move on to the next Question.