Road Safety

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 8:09 pm on 5th November 2018.

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Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 8:09 pm, 5th November 2018

The British Horse Society has shown itself to be a formidable campaigning engine in the way that it has managed to lobby my colleagues across the House, and I take my hat off to it. The very first debate in which I took part in my present job was a Westminster Hall debate on the safety of horse riders on roads. Ever since then I have had a very careful concern for the matter.

Indeed, road safety comes up regularly in this House. Only two weeks ago, I was debating the matter in Westminster Hall. Many colleagues then wished to speak, and I see that many have put their names down for speeches today. I am very grateful to them for the continued interest that they take in this important topic.

On this night, bonfire night, our thoughts may turn to those who have been involved in one of the most serious traffic incidents in recent times. Thirty-four vehicles were involved in a crash on the M50 motorway in heavy fog, with 51 people injured and seven people killed on 4 November 2011. Thankfully, such events are a rarity. In the UK, we have—and we must remember this—some of the safest roads in the world, but all road deaths are a tragedy for the families involved, not to mention the impact that they have on our health service and on the economy. It is vital that we strive continually to bring the numbers down.

The latest road safety statistics, covering 2017, were published last month. The country can be proud of the record over time. That is to say that there were 39% fewer fatalities in 2017 compared with 10 years earlier in 2007. However, as in many other countries, our road safety figures have generally plateaued since 2012. An ageing population comes with higher injury risks, and there continues to be those groups, such as young drivers, that are disproportionately represented in our casualty statistics. We know that technologies such as smartphones are distracting to drivers and present challenges, but new technology also presents opportunities for the future with a new era of automated vehicles.

The Government are taking a very active and wide-ranging approach to tackling issues of road safety in relation to matters such as infrastructure, training and enforcement. Of course, the roads themselves are a key part of ensuring an adequately safe system.