Former Transport Ministers call on Grant Shapps to act on vehicle safety

Former transport ministers have written to UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, calling on him to swiftly adopt new vehicle safety measures that have been described by the UK’s Transport Research Lab as the biggest advance in vehicle safety since the seat belt. 

The former Ministers include serving MP Sir Peter Bottomley, Father of the House of Commons, and five others from three parties and both Houses of Parliament.

The others are Crossbencher Baroness Hayman GBE, former Labour ministers Lord Whitty, Jim Fitzpatrick and Paul Clark plus Lib Dem Norman Baker

A package of 15 integrated measures, including better direct vision in HGVs, automated emergency braking that detects pedestrians and cyclists, and intelligent speed adaptation, comes into effect for vehicles made in the EU and in Northern Ireland from July. The UK actively supported these measures right up to the moment that it left the EU – two years ago this week. The UK now needs adopt its own regulations, or put the safety of UK road users at risk. 

Adopting this package of measures will benefit the UK automotive sector, which exports most new cars to the EU, where these standards will soon be mandatory. The technologies are integral to the development of connected and autonomous vehicles. They come at minimal cost to the taxpayer or consumer. The measures particularly help avoid serious and fatal crashes and injuries and improve safety for vulnerable road users. 

The Government consulted on new vehicle regulations in November 2021 but UK needs to reaffirm its position as the leader in transport safety, not only in Europe but in the world; the Future of Transport Regulatory Review is a critical opportunity for the UK government to place the UK at the forefront. 

David Davies, PACTS Executive Director said, “There has been little progress in reducing road deaths and injuries over the past decade (apart from during the 2020 lockdown). Here is a package of measures that would kick start a new chapter. It comes at almost no cost to government or the motorist. We support the call from former transport ministers for the government to at least match the standards that will apply in Northern Ireland. It could demonstrate the UK’s new independence by going further and faster.”

The full letter reads:

Dear Secretary of State, 
Having left the European Union, the United Kingdom needs to implement its own vehicle type-approval system. Your Department consulted on this late last year, and no doubt you are considering the responses.[1]This gives the United Kingdom an opportunity to reclaim its position as a world leader in vehicle safety standards and technology. The United Kingdom has been part of developing the new package of 15 vehicle safety standards (please see table A below) and, in many ways, played a leading role on behalf of other European nations. The package seeks to reduce road casualties as well as to assist drivers in complying with essential safety rules. 
In the decade 2010-2019, an average of 33,000 people were killed or seriously injured in road crashes on roads in Great Britain. (This excludes casualties in Northern Ireland.) These 15 integrated measures have the potential to dramatically reduce road collisions, deaths, and injuries – according to TRL, perhaps even more than the introduction of seat belts. The full regulatory package is estimated to result in the prevention of 1,762 deaths and over 15,000 serious injuries by 2037. The package will improve safety not only for vehicle occupants but also for vulnerable road users. It would also provide approximately £7 billion in net economic benefits. All this would come at virtually no cost to taxpayers and, because the measures will be fitted as standard, at minimal cost to consumers. The technologies are interdependent and to achieve these results, it is essential that the package is implemented in full, with the temptation to ‘cherry pick’ avoided.
These measures have the support of road safety stakeholders and the UK automotive industry, as compliance with these standards will be a requirement for exporting vehicles to Europe from July this year. Under the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU, they will also apply to Northern Ireland. Not adopting the new standards risks putting the UK automotive industry at a competitive disadvantage. Many of these technologies and systems will be essential to progress connected and autonomous vehicles, which we know has your strong support. 
We know you are committed to reducing casualties on UK roads, as demonstrated recently by your decisions on smart motorways and your commitment to publishing a new strategic framework for road safety. We firmly believe that adopting this set of standards in their entirety is the single most important thing you can do now to reduce deaths and injuries on UK roads. We kindly urge you to act swiftly for the safety of all road users and to re-establish the UK as the global leader in road safety. 

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