Proposed Bill set to reduce road fatalities

26 May 2011

MP Sir Alan Beith last week urged fellow Members of Parliament to back his Road Safety Bill, which includes provisions for all new lorries to be fitted with sensors that can warn a lorry driver if a cyclist is in their blind spot.

Presenting his Bill, Mr Beith said: “The Bill is about saving the lives of vulnerable road users, particularly cyclists but also pedestrians and others. The particular vulnerability that it deals with is caused by blind spots on heavy goods vehicles. It is a problem that is particularly acute in city traffic, especially at junctions.”

Statistics from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) show that around 75% of fatal or serious cyclist accidents occur in urban areas, and 75% happen at, or near, a junction. Last year, an estimated 3 billion miles were cycled along UK roads, and with cycling becoming an increasingly popular mode of transport the problem is likely to increase.

Transport Secretary, Phillip Hammond, has argued that when it comes to vehicle technology, voluntary compliance would be preferable to regulation, however Mr Beith maintains that to make installation of such sensors voluntary would not go far enough, as firms that did fit them would be undercut by those who refuse.

With ever increasing overheads, the haulage industry is undoubtedly feeling the pinch, and the sector would be faced with a sizeable bill if they had to fit their lorries with equipment needed to help prevent accidents. Any additional costs are unlikely to be welcomed, however Mr Beith argues that failing to adopt his proposals would be false economy, stating: “the costs to a haulage business of involvement in a fatal accident are substantial, including the loss of a driver’s services for a long period, the disrupting insurance, legal and other costs, and potentially compensation costs.”

The Department for Transport estimates that each fatal accident costs the economy on average more than £1.7 million, without even accounting for the human cost of such accidents. The estimated costs of fitting the proposed technology on lorries is around £700, which Mr Beith will no doubt argue is a small price to pay for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.

The Bill will receive its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday 9 September.