Road Safety (Schools) — [Mr Nigel Evans in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 3:52 pm on 13th September 2018.

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Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 3:52 pm, 13th September 2018

This is, of course, a matter for local authorities, and my hon. Friend is right to raise it. Some authorities have those powers, and some do not. Colleagues across the House have expressed concerns about that, and we are looking at it. To the extent that traffic regulation orders in relation to pavement parking may require some kind of reform, there may be scope to extend such reform to cover the kinds of aspects he describes.

One of the key issues that many colleagues across the House have discussed is 20 mph speed limits. It is important for the House to be aware that over the last few years we have introduced several new measures that can help local authorities to improve safety near schools. Local authorities have the power to introduce all-day 20 mph speed limits, and to introduce speed limits that apply only at certain times of day. Schools that are located on through roads, for example, where there may be conflicting desires on the part of local government, can have 20 mph zones imposed for periods of time, precisely to protect children at the beginning and end of the school day. Those limits can be indicated with variable message signs. Alternatively, authorities can now introduce an advisory part-time 20 mph limit using traffic signs with flashing school warning lights. They were prescribed in 2016 and can be a more cost-effective solution, as well as reducing sign clutter.

Some offences—this point has been acknowledged in the debate—are better tackled by training than punishment. Colleagues will be aware that earlier this year we commissioned some evaluation of the effectiveness of speed awareness training as an alternative to fines and penalty points for low-level speeding offences. That evaluation was broadly positive, and the national speed awareness course is now offered, as colleagues will know, by most police forces in England and Wales. We are also improving training for new drivers outside local roads by allowing learners to go on motorways with an approved driving instructor. Those are all part of trying to get safer drivers. We have new materials in progress to develop and improve learners’ awareness of hazards in different weather and lighting conditions.

On crossings, the new parallel crossing has been developed to enable pedestrians and cyclists to cross where a signal-controlled crossing is not justified. The now-ubiquitous pedestrian countdown units can be used to give extra information, allowing children to understand how much time they have left to cross the road. That is being supplemented by the Department with updated guidance. Chapter 6 of the “Traffic Signs Manual” will bring together and update existing advice on designing traffic signals and provide new guidance, which should be helpful.