Driving Test: First Aid

– in the House of Lords at 11:08 am on 30th June 2005.

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Photo of Lord Hoyle Lord Hoyle Labour 11:08 am, 30th June 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will include first aid as part of the driving test.

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 syllabus for the driving theory test taken by candidates seeking a licence to drive a car, motor cycle, lorry or bus requires a basic knowledge and understanding of first aid. Every theory test includes a question on first aid and a separate question on accident handling.

Photo of Lord Hoyle Lord Hoyle Labour

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply but I seek to take the matter a little further, particularly as 57 per cent of deaths in road accidents occur in the first four minutes. Although my noble friend says that a question on first aid is included in the theory test, surely a first aid course that is a little more than basic would be desirable as it is claimed that 85 per cent of those lives could be saved. Can we not seize the opportunity to include such a course in the driving test during the passage of the Road Safety Bill?

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 opportunity is there in the Bill, but I certainly would not seize it. There would be substantial additional costs. We would have to increase the charge for the test by about 15 per cent or 16 per cent if we introduced a serious test of the kind that my noble friend has indicated. We could also be in the position where someone had passed the theory part of how to drive safely on the roads, had passed the practical part and shown that they could control a car and carry out the necessary manoeuvres, but might fail the test because they were not good enough at first aid.

I share the intention behind the Question asked by my noble friend, that all road users should be aware of the fact that they could come close to an accident at any time and that an awareness of basic first aid techniques could save lives. That is different from saying that passing the test should be dependent on first aid competence.

Photo of Lord Marsh Lord Marsh Crossbench

My Lords, I speak as someone who passed his test some 50 years ago. Does the Minister not have doubts about the desirability of encouraging people, on the basis of passing a simple test, to get involved in serious road 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, that is certainly so, although I would counsel all of us who took the test quite a long time ago—and I have no doubt that there are several of us in this House—to be aware of the demands of the modern test. If there is a moral obligation, it is that as road users we are up to the standards of drivers who pass the test at present.

Of course, it is the case that an adequate first aid test that guarantees that the individual gives proper help, while at the same time not being guilty of complicating matters enormously by giving the wrong kind of treatment at a serious accident, would be an extensive one. That is why I said that it would lead to extra charges for the test, extra time consumed, and probably would not really be acceptable to the public.

Photo of The Earl of Mar and Kellie The Earl of Mar and Kellie Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport, Spokesperson in the Lords (Scottish Home Affairs), Home Affairs, Whip

My Lords, I am in favour of formal basic first aid training for all citizens and not just for drivers. I am concerned that including that in the driver training process might make it into a certificate of attendance rather than a certificate of competence. Should not that sort of training be undertaken universally in the last year of school?

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, that point is well made. We all recognise that we want schoolchildren to be able to cope with first aid issues, and certainly school offers that opportunity. The difficulty, as the noble Earl will recognise, is that the curriculum is a crowded place, certainly during exam years and the final years at school, so there are difficulties in that respect. Nevertheless, citizenship education, which is now part of the curriculum, does have a dimension of awareness and safety of one's fellow citizens.

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench

My Lords, I agree that almost certainly it would not be sensible to include it in the driving test, but is it not an area where public service broadcasters could play a role in ensuring from time to time that our skills as a nation are updated?

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, that is certainly a thought, although I would not be the first person to rush to a television producer with the bright idea that he should put on half and hour on first aid testing in his next programme. Nevertheless, there are certain programmes concerned with the public weal in the general sense—informative programmes—where perhaps a first aid dimension ought to be emphasised rather more than it is at present.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Work & Pensions & Welfare Reform

My Lords, further to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, and the Minister's answer, we live today in a blame culture. It is not highly likely that if first aid went wrong the motorist would be sued?

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, that is a danger. By definition, after any serious accident a great deal of activity follows from insurance companies. If one applied the wrong methods and caused deterioration in the person being treated, or even death where it might not have occurred if one had not attempted to be helpful, that might render one liable.

Photo of Baroness Masham of Ilton Baroness Masham of Ilton Crossbench

My Lords, is the Minister aware that a blocked airway causes death within four minutes, and that all you have to do to clear it is to tip the head back? Is he aware that Slovakia has first aid as part of its test? Surely if Slovakia can do it, we can do it.

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 reluctant to comment in great detail about the Slovakian test, as I have not experienced it recently. Our driving test is one of the most stringent in the world, but the noble Baroness's point is entirely valid. One would be in danger of not passing the test if one did not have the elementary knowledge to which she referred, which is so valuable. A range of questions are asked in the test about first aid, so that dimension is likely to be covered. A serious person submitting themselves for the driving licence test will know that fact.

P

I'm new to this, but reading this debate on the possibility of introducing first aid to driving tests I am surprised that, for such a potentially important issue, the level of debate is incredibly insipid, almost soprofic. The points made are banal, and the conclusions limp. There's more life in a sixth form debating society. Some of the...

Submitted by Peter Traynor Continue reading