Written submission to the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry on Road Safety

 

  • How effective is the Government’s current approach to road safety? 

 

A recent report by the European Transport Safety Council named the UK as one of the three EU countries that has achieved the slowest progress in further reducing road deaths since 2010. Rather than continuing to decline, the UK’s road death rate is levelling off. The Department for Transport reported that in 2017 across the UK there were a total of: 

– 24,831 serious injuries in road traffic accidents reported to the police. 

– 1,793 people killed in road traffic accidents. That equates to nearly five people a day being killed in a road traffic accident. 

I am of the view that far more effective action is needed to reduce the number of unnecessary deaths which occur on UK roads every year.

  • Are there any areas where the Government’s current approach to road safety could be improved? 

 

I think there are two key areas where the Government’s current approach to road safety could be improved – namely, in the sentencing of driving offenders and in the utilisation of road safety technology.

 

iii–v) Re: Implementation – What interventions would be most effective at reducing the number and severity of road traffic accidents/ What evidence is there on the effectiveness of these interventions? How can interventions to reduce and severity of road accidents best be implemented?

  • Sentencing of driving offenders:

 

Greater use of lengthy driving bans

In 2017 the custody rate for motoring offences was 1%. Where an offender was sentenced to immediate custody in 2017, the average custodial sentence length was only 8.2 months and in 2017 the number of offenders directly disqualified from driving decreased by 8% from 63,000 in 2016 to 58,000 in 2017. I find such statistics deeply concerning. It is my strong-held belief that collisions and road traffic accidents are not inevitable and should not be accepted as such. Cycling UK has stated that whereas society expects high safety standards in various aspects of our lives where there are inherent risks, there is a different culture on the roads. I agree with their calls for far greater use of lengthy driving bans, both as a penalty and to protect the public. 

Convicted drivers are consistently avoiding driving bans by resorting to claims that such a ban will cause them ‘exceptional hardship’. According to Cycling UK, in January 2017 there were almost 10,000 drivers still allowed to drive, even though they had amassed 12 points or more on their licence. This is despite the fact that those who accumulate this number of points automatically face disqualification from driving. 

I think it is time to review and increase the length of driving bans which are given out. The ‘exceptional hardship’ loophole should also be abandoned as an acceptable reason for avoiding bans. I also believe that we need more police monitoring rural roads which (according to data provided by the Institute of Advanced Motorists) is where most fatal crashes take place.

Tougher sentences for causing death and serious injury by dangerous or careless driving

 

We also need tougher sentences for those causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving. The Government announced in October 2017 that it would create a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for this vital legislative change to be enacted. Representations asking when the law will be changed have received only the vague response that such legislation will be introduced when parliamentary time allows. I believe that the Government should introduce this promised legislative change as soon as possible.  

  • Greater use of road safety technology:

 

Intelligent Speed Adaption

Intelligent Speed Adaption (ISA) is a system that compares the local speed limit to the vehicle speed. I would like to see greater use of ISA. As well as advising the driver when they are exceeding the speed limit, the ISA system can limit engine power when necessary to help prevent the driver from exceeding the current speed limit. The European Transport Safety Council has described ISA as ‘probably the single most effective new vehicle safety technology currently available in terms of its life-saving potential’. The Council expects that with mass adoption and use, ISA could reduce collisions by 30% and deaths by 20% and is calling for ISA to be fitted on all new vehicles as standard. A recent welcome announcement by the Government suggests that the Government is supportive of this idea. In order to save lives, I would hope that the Government would introduce this initiative at the earliest possible opportunity.

Alcohol interlocks

In France it is mandatory for all motor vehicles to carry a breathalyser, with fines imposed on drivers who are found to be in breach of this obligation. A step up from this is an alcohol interlock. Alcohol interlocks are breathalysers that require the driver to blow into a breathalyser before they can begin to drive. If the driver tries to start the car while over the drink-drive limit, the vehicle is immobilised. Alcohol interlocks are already mandatory in Belgium for repeat drink drive offenders. Many other European countries, such as Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands, Poland and Sweden have introduced either compulsory or voluntary alcohol interlocks for drink-drive offenders. I believe that the Government should consider the merits of adopting a similar measure in the UK.

Telematics devices

Telematic devices track and score the driving behaviour of individuals. This information is then used to calculate insurance premiums. Telematics insurance offers an incentive to drivers to drive carefully and safely; the better the policy holder’s driving is, the lower the premium they pay. Telematic devices can record maximum and average speeds travelled, acceleration, breaking, cornering and impact. Research by LexisNexis Risk Solutions concludes that telematics insurance has done more to cut accident risk than any other road safety initiative aimed at the young driver market. 

Telematic devices could additionally be used to monitor the driving behaviour of those who have previously been banned from driving. It could be made a condition of licence return following a driving ban that the offender have a telematics device fitted in their car. Any driver found to be repeatedly driving carelessly or dangerously and thereby posing a danger to other road users could then have their licence revoked. I would like to see far greater use of telematic devices

Dash camera footage

Operation Snap is an initiative initially devised and piloted by North Wales Police (and the Road Casualty Reduction Partnership) and now adopted across Wales. This campaign allows the public to submit footage from helmet or dash cameras and smartphones to Welsh police forces via a website. The police can then use such footage to investigate and prosecute driving offences. Since the official launch of Operation Snap, an average of 140 videos and images per month have been uploaded through the Operation Snap website with the footage having been used to secure a number of prosecutions. 

The Transport Committee’s 2016 ‘Road traffic law enforcement review’ concluded that for the enforcement of speed limits to be effective while the number of dedicated road policing officers falls, the use of technology is essential. I believe that a UK-nationwide initiative similar to ‘Operation Snap’ would be a most effective use of technology

 

Susan Elan Jones MP

3rd April 2019