Road Safety and the Legal Framework — [Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:25 am on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield 10:25 am, 20th November 2018

I recently stood down as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for transport safety, and retain my role as chair of the charity the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety. I stood down because I now chair the World Health Organisation’s Global Network for Road Safety Legislators.

This issue is rightly called the greatest epidemic of our times by the United Nations. Some 1.3 million people are being killed on our roads, and 10 times that number are being seriously injured. It is an enormous challenge for all of us.

When I introduced my first private Member’s Bill, to ban children from being carried unrestrained in cars, and when we started PACTS and organised the seatbelt legislation, we had one mantra, which was to base all our work on great research. If there are good laws based on great research, enforced rigorously and fairly, that leads to results, and we have seen a reduction in deaths and serious injuries across most of Europe. We need to expand that further. This is a timely debate, as it is Road Safety Week. We have this fine organisation, PACTS, which has organised its work over many years on research, on good laws and on keeping the population of the country with us, which is very important. My plea today is that we keep our minds on evidence-based research.

I know about the feelings when someone is tragically killed. I came into this road safety area after a terrible accident on returning with my number two daughter from her christening. It was a dreadful smash, and thank God we survived. Ever since then, I have been passionate about saving these lives, but we can get carried away. This is not about vengeance. The laws should be right and commensurate. Sometimes, we see appeals for tough legislation and tough penalties, and we can get carried away. I believe that if we look at getting the balance right and carrying the public with us, we will get a reduction and we will get better.

We are lucky to be seeing better technology, but I would add a word of caution. Technology in cars is improving all the time. People are safer and safer, in the safest of cars, but it is the vulnerable road users—the pedestrians, the cyclists, and those on little motorised two-wheelers most of all—who are being killed all over the world. This is a United Nations sustainable development goal, and it is as important here as it is all around the world.