Orders of the Day — Motor Cyclists (Safety)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:18 pm on 13th November 1979.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Transport) 10:18 pm, 13th November 1979

I begin by welcoming the holding of a debate on this important subject and then congratulating the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) on initiating it. He is right to underline the serious problem of motor cycle casualties. He said that he did not want to labour the statistics, but they are awful and they paint a clear picture of the misery that is being caused by the current level of accidents.

The casualty figures have become very much worse in recent years. There were 43,000 accidents to motor cyclists in 1972 and the figure went up to nearly 70,000 in 1978. The motor cyclist is a particularly vulnerable road user. In terms of miles travelled, he is 30 times more likely to have an accident on the road than someone travelling in a four-wheeled vehicle.

As the hon. Member told us, there is a terrible death rate, particularly among our young people. A quarter of the deaths of those aged between 16 and 19 in this country are attributable to motor cycle accidents. The danger of the machine itself is not worsening. The figures are getting worse because motor cycles are getting more and more popular as a means of travel. I am afraid that as the sales figures increase this year, unless something is done soon it is inevitable that the accident figures will also rise.

I confirm that the Government regard safety as a high priority. We are anxious to take steps that will begin to have an impact on the appalling toll of death and injury. I have followed the comments of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East since he was elected and he suggested again tonight that perhaps there has been some delay in taking action. I assure him that my right hon. Friend and I do not desire to delay making decisions. An advisory committee on motor cycle training was set up before we came into office.