Dangerous Driving Penalties — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:29 pm on 17th September 2015.

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Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green 3:29 pm, 17th September 2015

I thank Alok Sharma for securing the debate. I will touch briefly on what I call the three Es of traffic safety—education, engineering and enforcement. Enforcement has been well dealt with by Members on both sides of the Chamber today.

In particular, my experience has come from my time in a local authority. I was the council leader who brought in the 20 mph zone across the whole borough, which was in some ways popular and some ways unpopular. That measure, however, brought to the fore the importance of traffic speed. A 20 mph limit may not be introduced in the whole area, but zones should be considered. Certain schools have zones, which is a positive development in our engineering.

Capital funds must be made available for engineering. My hon. Friend Jim Fitzpatrick commented on the fall in the number of enforcement officers. The capital spend for local authorities to fund the necessary engineering for safety, however, has also dropped in recent years. I am talking about real basics—kerbs, traffic lights, cycle lanes and so on. All such engineering changes to make pathways and roads safer must also be funded.

On education, obviously much can be done in schools. It does not stop the bad behaviour later by people who are driving as criminals almost, but it improves general awareness early on of the importance of road safety. Again, such programmes need to be funded. I am aware that cycle funding, for example, has been reduced in the past few years, which is a pity, particularly in built-up areas such as the London boroughs and other metropolitan areas. Even in rural areas much can be done to teach about cycle, pedestrian and indeed driver safety.

Education about better signage is not necessarily a miracle fix for everyone, but where we have not paid attention to adequate and high-quality signage it can be confusing for motorists. We need to look into that and improve the general feeling of safety in a particular area. In more built-up areas, signage is becoming increasingly important, because we have a high turnover of different sorts of drivers who might need more education in how traffic moves, in particular as the light changes at different times of the year. The statistics for road traffic accidents show a spike around this time of year, as we go into the shorter days. I wonder whether we could do more on education in that regard.

On driver education, we can do all we like, but if drivers are going to behave criminally, as the hon. Member for Reading West suggested, there is not much we can do. We can, however, try to explain sometimes to young drivers in particular the long-term impact on people’s lives when these terrible accidents occur. Some of our statistics show that it is our younger drivers who are sometimes having these terrible accidents, perhaps because they have not encountered the extreme human pain involved.

Those are the three Es of education, engineering and enforcement. Obviously, my knowledge of them is to do with the cycling and pedestrian experience, but they also relate to drivers. I thank you, Mr Hollobone, for allowing me to speak, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for proposing the motion.