Road Safety Minister under fire over lorry mirrors delays

London Cycle Campaign calls for mirrors deadline to be brought forward

by Rebecca McIlhone   May 8, 2009  

London accidents

The London Cycling Campaign has called upon Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick to speed up the fitting of Class VI safety mirrors to all HGVs, however the Department for Transport says that any change would  have to be agreed Europe-wide.

The mirrors give a view of the road directly in front of the driver’s cab and are proven to reduce cyclist and pedestrian casualties. The issue was highlighted recently by the tragic death of two women cyclists within the space of 24 hours in the capital. Both died after collisions with HGVs.

Yesterday that National Audit Office released figures showing that while Britain's roads were getting safer for drivers it was at the expense of other vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians and it called on the Government to introduce specific targets to reduce casualties amongst these groups. HGVs are responsible for a disproportionately large number of the fatal incidents involving cyclists on Britain's roads.

Charlie Lloyd, HGV campaigner for LCC said, “We recently met Jim Fitzpatrick to ask him to accelerate the fitting of Class VI safety mirrors, but he refused to speed up this simple and proven safety measure, the minister claiming the EU forbids him from doing this. Under the current timetable, most UK lorries will not have these mirrors until 2014. In view of the NAO report, there is no justification for this position, and we fear needless cyclist and pedestrian casualties will occur.”

Cycling in London has doubled since 2000 and the casualty rate has dropped dramatically, but not fast enough to meet the targets set by the DfT, says the Campaign. In 2008, nine out of the 15 cyclist fatalities in Greater London were caused by collisions with HGVs.

Charlie Lloyd added: “In London the greatest risk to cyclists comes from lorries. The DfT itself, in its recent draft Road Safety Strategy, identifies them as having a casualty rate twice as high as other vehicles. Despite knowing this for over a decade, the DfT has done much less, and done it much later than other EU countries.”

A DfT spokesman said: "We want to make Britain’s roads the safest in the world and have set ambitious targets to reflect this. Most new HGVs have been fitted with front mirrors as part of a package of improvements and separately, additional new rules were introduced earlier this year imposing tougher requirements for cab mirrors on HGVs registered from January 2000 as part of a Europe-wide measure.

"These requirements do not include the front mirror and though we are restricted by European law from imposing tougher national rules in this area, we are currently completing a study of devices to improve driver vision in HGVs and plan to use the results of this work to support a proposal to amend the relevant international regulations in order to reduce blind spots.”

LCC also called on the Government to provide much better training for lorry drivers to make them sufficiently aware of the risks to cyclists and pedestrians.

For more information about the LCC visit the website: www.lcc.org.uk