In the 1960s, Northern Ireland had the best road safety record of any region or part of the United Kingdom. Since 1986, it has had the worst. Northern Ireland can return to having the safest roads. That is the aim of the road casualty reduction programme launched last autumn. One hundred and eighty-one people died on the roads in 1989.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on promoting the "Don't drink and drive" campaign, which has helped to reduce the number of casualties, but does he agree that praise is due also to others who have contributed to the reduction in the carnage on the roads—including the media, which gave publicity to the road safety campaign?
If people can have their consciousness and awareness raised with the help of brewers, pubs and off-licences, fewer of them will be offered drink before driving—and drink is still the biggest factor linked with death on the roads. It is important to reach the target of cutting road deaths in Northern Ireland from an average of 210 to 140 per year. That saving of 70 lives per year would probably be very welcome in Northern Ireland.
In view of the Minister's obvious and much-publicised concern for road safety, will he explain why his own Department's officials do not seem to share his views? They refused to allow the completion of the bypass of Killead and the dangerous A26, and they are very much against road crossings—particularly in Fountain street, Antrim.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will meet me so that we can discuss those issues. One problem is that a number of hon. Members keep away from Ministers. Perhaps we can start working together instead.
Given the Minister's interest in road safety in Northern Ireland, does he agree that his Department should demonstrate more concern for achieving uniform salting and gritting of roads in the Province? Drivers passing from one council's area into another are lulled into a sense of false security and then become involved in accidents. Will the Minister take a personal interest in that matter?
Yes, I will. However, I should not want the hon. Gentleman to promote the idea that road casualty reductions are a matter of concern to me only. Road safety councils throughout Northern Ireland have been working on that problem far longer than I have. One reason why road deaths are down from 300 to 200 and will, we hope, reduce further, is because of all their work. Of course, I shall try to ensure that there is consistency in road salting, but I ask all drivers to prepare for bad road conditions and not to assume that the Government can wave a magic wand and save them from the consequences of their own driving.