Road Signs: Speed Limits

– in the House of Lords at 2:50 pm on 29 June 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative 2:50, 29 June 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What regulations exist to ensure adequate visibility of, and distance between, road signs indicating changes in speed limits so as to assist drivers in complying with those limits.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 requires the Secretary of State and local traffic authorities to erect and maintain traffic signs to give adequate warning of speed limits to drivers.

Regulations relating to the size, placing and lighting of speed limit signs are contained in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002. The Department for Transport Traffic Advisory Leaflet 1/95 also provides detailed guidance on good practice.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he able to explain why, although controversial Camera 265 on Marlow Hill, High Wycombe, has been the subject of three major articles in the local press about this unsatisfactory site on an uphill carriageway, the Thames Valley Safer Road Partnership, which is responsible, has, claiming an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act, refused to respond to press requests for figures of amount of revenue raised and number of fines issued? Surely rather than this being a secret it should be public information.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I am not sure that I am familiar with that particular road sign, but I shall seek to acquaint myself with it—at a respectable speed, of course. The general position on safety cameras is that they are in place behind signs that are clearly presented and are subject to regulation. The signs are different to all other signs on the road, and they give drivers warning both of the speed and of the fact that a safety camera is in position. Our intention is not to catch drivers who exceed the speed limit but to guarantee that all drivers obey the speed limit.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

My Lords, will the Minister clarify that Answer a little? First, if the 30 mph limit applies, there are no repeater signs within the area where there are street lights. That is an anomaly, which most Members would agree should be put right. I do not know whether speeds marked on the roads are possible, but certainly repeater signs are not placed in those areas.

Secondly, and much more dangerously, it is common to place speed cameras in areas where the speed limit may be 40, 50, 60 or 70 mph, and in those cases it is not usual to place a speed limit sign in advance of the camera. People do not know what the speed is and they apply the brakes suddenly, which is a cause of accidents.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, first, the noble Lord is right that repeater signs are not needed in lit areas where the original 30 mph sign is in place. It is not possible to pass a driving test without knowing that limit. If it is suggested that people need to be reminded in lit roads of the 30 mph limit, we can address ourselves to that matter since we have regular consultations on the regulations. What the noble Lord is describing in the first case is that which obtains in the vast majority of lit areas, which generally have 30 mph signs. The only reason that they would not have that limit would be if the road were a dual carriageway, where drivers would clearly expect a different speed limit.

On the second point, the noble Lord is right that repeater signs are not required with regard to the safety cameras, but the whole point of the safety cameras is that people should be aware of where they are and therefore the maximum attempt at highlighting those areas is carried out against a background where we also expect, with the development of GPS systems in cars and so on, that drivers will know where every single camera in the country is placed, and we are entirely happy with that information.

Photo of Lord Tanlaw Lord Tanlaw Crossbench

My Lords, in answer to another Question the Minister established that there is a difference between analogue and digital time. As most motorists have digital radios in their cars, there is the time lapse that the Minister established. In places where there are time signs, such as outside schools, so that there is no misunderstanding will law enforcement devices such as cameras make allowance for the fact that the motorist will have a digital radio and therefore a slightly delayed time in his car?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, if drivers conducted their cars with a degree of precision for which a five or six-second difference occasioned whether they obeyed or disobeyed the law, we would expect them to have a wider margin.

Photo of Lord Tebbit Lord Tebbit Conservative

My Lords, will the Minister now be kind enough to answer the question put to him by my noble friend Lady Gardner? Is it right that one of the revenue-raising cameras should be hidden from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act? She asked how much revenue it was raising.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, they are not revenue-raising cameras; they are safety cameras to enforce obedience to speed limits. The particular authority must answer for itself in terms of how much information it gives. Our general position with regard to safety cameras is clear. The partnerships that erect the cameras can devote the money only to the one aspect of safety on the roads. It is a complete canard to suggest, as I have heard it whispered in one or two quarters, that this is some form of stealth tax. It simply is not.

Photo of Baroness Trumpington Baroness Trumpington Conservative

My Lords, I do not think that the Minister has answered the question put again to him. With regard to the Question, would it be possible to do away with the horrible bumps in the road and put cameras in instead? Bumps mean increased emissions—whatever that means—and cameras do not.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, the noble Baroness is on a fruitful point. Local authorities have sought to rethink their policy of speed constraint through bumps, because there are many disadvantages. Therefore there is an increase in other forms of speed control.

Noble Lords:

My Lords—