§ Mr. Webster
asked the Minister of Transport if he has received the Report of the Road Research Laboratory on Fatal Accidents at Christmas, 1963: and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Marples
Yes. The Report will be published this afternoon, and copies are available in the Vote Office.
The Report reinforces the main conclusion of the 1959 report by the Road Research Laboratory that drink is the main cause of the increased accident rate at Christmas. It is, unfortunately, clear that far too many people have taken no notice of the warnings that have been given, and that the public, who rightly condemn anyone who drives when plainly drunk, do not sufficiently realise that small amounts of alcohol can impair a driver's judgment and skill sufficiently to make it unsafe for him to drive, even though he appears to be sober.
It was because of the dangerous effect which even small quantities of alcohol can have on drivers that in the Road Traffic Act, 1962, the law was changed to provide that a person is unfit to drive "if his ability to do so properly is for the time being impaired". Thus, if it is established that ability to drive 201W properly has been impaired as a result of the consumption of alcohol, a driver who is accused of this offence should be convicted, even though it does not appear that he was drunk or in a condition approaching that.
The provision of the 1962 Act has been in force only a short time, and we are convinced that it should have every chance to work. Alteration of the law is by itself not enough. Everyone must be brought to realise that driving after drinking even small amounts of alcohol increases the risks, to themselves and to others. When this is realised safety on the roads will be increased and the terrible casualties will be reduced.
We must take fresh steps to stir the public conscience on this subject. A campaign will be launched to make plain to all that it is dangerous to drive after drinking even small amounts of alcohol.