Excessive Speeding and Driving Bans

Part of Whitsun Adjournment – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 23 May 2019.

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Photo of Susan Elan Jones Susan Elan Jones Labour, Clwyd South 5:00, 23 May 2019

The motion lapsed at an extremely convenient time, Madam Deputy Speaker, as I am now moving on to the second part of my speech.

I turn to technology, and specifically what technology now makes possible. I believe that we can and should do a lot more to effectively utilise technological developments so that we reduce the number of driving offences and the causalities that result from them. I know that Ministers have made positive statements in this regard, and I really hope that we can progress well on this.

Intelligent speed adaptation—ISA—is a system that compares the local speed limit to the vehicle speed. As well as advising the driver when they are exceeding the speed limit, an ISA system can limit engine power when necessary to help to prevent the driver from exceeding the current speed limit. The European Transport Safety Council has described intelligent speed adaptation 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%. In June 2015, the London Mayor and Transport for London announced that ISA would be trialled on 47 London buses. According to the results of the trial, which were announced in March 2016, TfL found the technology to be “particularly effective” when buses drove through zones with a 20 mph limit, and the technology ensured that the buses taking part in the trial remained within the speed limit between 97% and 99% of the time. In the light of the trial, TfL has required all new buses entering service from 2017 to have this technology fitted.

The technology is not just applicable to commercial vehicles, and the European Transport Safety Council is calling for ISA to be fitted on all new vehicles as standard. I think that that is an extremely good idea. In France, it is mandatory for all motor vehicles to carry a breathalyser, and fines are imposed on drivers who are found to be in breach of that obligation. A step up from that 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. Let me be clear that I am not suggesting this for all drivers, but there is a strong case for making it a condition that people who have been convicted of drink or drug-related driving offences must use the technology when they get their licence back.

Alcohol interlocks are already mandatory in Belgium for repeat drink-drive offenders. Many other European countries, including Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden, have introduced either compulsory or voluntary alcohol interlocks for drink-drive offenders. In the UK, the Durham police force is carrying out a voluntary trial of such devices for those convicted of drink-driving. The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport SafetyPACTS—suggested in its October 2017 report commemorating 50 years of the breathalyser that the UK Government should review the potential role of alcohol interlocks. I strongly agree with that.

According to Wasted Lives, an award-winning young driver education programme, road collisions are the biggest killer of 15 to 24-year-olds in the UK. House of Commons Library research shows that, despite making up only 7% of drivers, young people aged between 17 and 24 represent nearly 20% of people killed or seriously injured in car crashes. Those statistics show that we need more action to keep younger drivers safe. There is also a serious case for a graduated driving licence, and I welcome the UK Government’s pilot scheme in Northern Ireland.

A further measure that could be implemented is the greater use of telematics devices, which track and score individual driving behaviour, with the information then used to calculate insurance premiums. Telematics insurance offers an incentive to drivers to drive carefully and safely, because the better the policyholder’s driving, the lower their premium. Telematics devices can record maximum and average speeds, acceleration, braking, 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.

Perhaps the Minister will also consider the merits of using telematics devices to monitor the driving behaviour of those who have previously been banned from driving. It could be made a condition of a licence return following a driving ban that a telematics device is fitted in the offender’s car. Any driver found to be repeatedly driving carelessly or dangerously, and hence continuing to pose a danger to other road users, could then have their licence revoked.

In 2015, a driver on the A495 near Bronington in my constituency was filmed performing two dangerous overtakes on a blind bend. Video evidence of the dangerous manoeuvre was captured by the dash camera of a car behind him, and the footage was used as evidence to secure the overtaking driver’s conviction for dangerous driving. In response to the increasing number of such submissions from members of the public, Operation Snap was launched in December 2017. The initiative was initially devised and piloted by North Wales police and the Road Casualty Reduction Partnership, and has now been adopted across Wales. The 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 a month have been uploaded through the website, with the footage used in a number of prosecutions. It is an important initiative. The Transport Committee’s 2016 “Road traffic law enforcement” review concluded that if there is to be effective enforcement of speed limits as the number of dedicated road policing officers falls, the use of technology will be essential—I totally agree.

I conclude my speech with three main questions for the Minister. First, what will she do to ensure that tougher action is taken to tackle speeding offences, and will she ensure that more lengthy driving bans are awarded? Secondly, will she consider removing the “exceptional hardship” argument as a way for drivers who accumulate more than 12 points on their driving licence to avoid deserved driving bans? Thirdly, what will she do to explore ways in which technology can be used to improve road safety, particularly with regard to European Transport Safety Council recommendations? I look forward to hearing from the Minister, and to us all working together to do whatever we can to stop accidents and fatalities on our roads. It is very important that we tackle this issue.