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Calls for Road Safety Bill to target fleet accidents

Date: 10 March 2006

Two safety pressure groups have called for the Government's new Road Safety Bill to force companies to report all work-hour accidents.

The bill is nearing the end of its passage through parliament, but both RoSPA and PACTS, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, say there's still time to add an amendment to make car accidents reportable to the Health and Safety Executive.

"We don't know exactly how many people die while driving for work, because it's not recorded when someone dies in a regular vehicle. In a goods vehicle, yes, but not if they're in a saloon," said Emily Crawford of PACTS.

RoSPA estimates that between a quarter and a third of crashes are work-associated, equating to 800-1000 fatalities a year. "It's not just that we'd get accurate figures. It's the fact that if they had to report accidents to the HSE, companies would be required to keep records, and investigate internally," said Roger Bibbings, of RoSPA. "If it is possible to include that [in the bill], we would support it."

Their concerns were echoed last Wednesday by David Kidney, Labour MP for Stafford: "We need to create a stronger focus on employer responsibility for [driver] training and education and, frankly, not putting their workers under impossible time pressures."

The bill now goes to debate until April 20, followed by a commons vote and the final Lords vote. Analysts estimate it will be law by the middle of this year.

The proposal most likely to slow the bill's progress is the new charge of death by careless or inconsiderate driving.

Shadow Secretary of Transport Chris Grayling said last Wednesday: "We have serious reservations about the drafting of the offence. How do we judge if someone should have looked a little harder when leaving a junction?" The Lords have already thrown out the proposal for custodial sentences.

As well as proposing a sliding scale for speeding penalties, the bill will allow courts to send maximum-point "low-end speeders" to speed-awareness courses in lieu of a ban. Other changes include increased fines for phone-driving to £60 and three points, and banning radar detectors and jammers (but not camera locators).