Road Safety — [Mrs Madeleine Moon in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:09 pm on 16th October 2018.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 3:09 pm, 16th October 2018

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate under your chairmanship today, Mrs Moon.

I congratulate Jack Brereton on bringing this issue forward and giving us all a chance to participate in this debate.

I will very quickly give a flavour of what is happening in Northern Ireland, as I do in nearly every debate in Westminster Hall, because it is always important to have the statistics that back up the story we are trying to tell.

In Northern Ireland we had 9,737 casualties on our roads last year. Obviously, we have to do better. Road safety is a multifaceted issue and a multifaceted approach is needed. Speeding is a clear issue. All hon. Members who have spoken so far have said that, and will continue to say that. According to statistics released by the Department for Infrastructure, 69% of drivers broke the speed limit on built-up roads in Northern Ireland. Whereas 50% of them drove too fast on single and dual carriageways, speeding on motorways was down by 30%, so there are some good things. The majority of pedestrian casualties occur in built-up areas. Again, we need to highlight that issue. Twenty-nine of the 34 child pedestrians and 302 of the 413 adult pedestrians who were killed in 2016 died on built-up roads.

Pedal cyclists are also vulnerable in built-up areas. More than half of the cyclist deaths in 2016, 58 out of 102, and most cyclist injuries in that year, almost 17,000 out of nearly 18,500, occurred on built-up roads. Although rural areas have their own particular issues, built-up areas are where the real pressure seems to be. In 2016, 789 people were killed, almost 16,000 were seriously injured and 113,055 were slightly injured. If someone is driving at 40 mph and they hit a child, they will probably kill them; at 30 mph, the child has an 80% chance of survival; and at 20 mph, the child is likely to survive being hit, with only minor injuries. So it is clear that we need to drive in built-up areas at a speed that is not a threat to other people.

Inexperience does not end with passing the test, which is why the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, which Jim Fitzpatrick referred to, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the Institute of Advanced Motorists have a scheme that involves on-road driving assessments, manoeuvrability tests, road-safe and wellbeing exhibitions and simulated fatal car crashes. Those are important steps in the way forward to educating people and raising awareness.

Teaching our young drivers is essential. We must address the fact that they do not have lessons on motorways, and their first trip up the road to university, changing lanes and navigating, is simply dangerous, so we must look at that issue as well.

I very much support the scheme that we have back home in Northern Ireland; I suspect it is probably evident in other parts of the United Kingdom as well. Our education programmes in high schools feature personal stories, often from young people who have been disabled in accidents. There are graphic demonstrations or dramatisations to influence the attitude of young students driving for the first time. I remind the Minister that the insurance companies do some monitoring of first-time drivers. The scheme to reduce insurance and to monitor the speed of cars is a good scheme.

I also have concerns about horse deaths on the roads. The British Horse Society is aware of some 2,914 reports of road incidents involving horses; 230 horses have died and 39 riders have lost their lives. We need to remind people how to drive at the right speed at the right place. There might be a 60 mph national speed limit, but sometimes it is safe only to drive at 40. When it might be safe to drive at 60, some people doing 20 mph is an issue that must be addressed as well. There is work to do, and there must be funding for a strategy. I look to the Minister for the strategy and for the funding to back it up. I welcome the fact that in Northern Ireland we have put measures in outside schools. We have put in schemes to reduce speed, which will increase safety for children at school.