Clause 26 - Breach of requirements as to control of vehicle, mobile telephones etc.

Part of Road Safety Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 28th March 2006.

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Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Chair, Procedure Committee 5:15 pm, 28th March 2006

I do not own a Ferrari. It occurs to me that it would be more, not less, likely to increase the road rage of a driver in such a position if he felt that he could not telephone ahead to inform those he was seeking to meet that he had been unavoidably delayed. How much more that would be true of a young mother held in a traffic jam who realises that she will not be there to meet her child at the school gates. Not everyone has the benefit of a hands-free car kit. If she could use the phone, her mind would be put at rest, and the safety of the child would be assured.

There should be a common-sense approach. I well remember that, some 20 years ago, I had attended a concert with a musician friend of mine, and was travelling home with him in the band’s van. He knew a short cut. The road was controlled by some temporary traffic lights because of a trench that was being dug, but the stretch of road was perfectly straight for at least half a mile. I am sure that the temporary traffic lights were necessary during the daytime, but it was 2 am and my friend’s van was the only vehicle travelling in our direction. There were no other vehicles on the road—certainly none coming the other way.

The temporary traffic lights were on red and my friend did something he should not have done. It was 2 am, he could see that there were no other vehicles about, so he went through the red light. Guess what happened, Sir Nicholas. As soon as he was through the red light, two police officers jumped out of a hedge, pulled him over, and gave him a ticket for going through a red light.

There we have police officers in a rural area, hiding in a hedge to catch a motorist going through red lights at 2 am when there were no other vehicles around. I know that, without the amendment, there will be some regulation-ridden, pen-pushing nincompoop of a police officer, who will go down a line of parked cars, giving out tickets to people who are using a telephone. Even though it is quite safe for them to do so, they will be guilty of an offence because technically they will be driving.

I hope, therefore, that the Minister will seriously consider accepting the amendment.