Meredydd Hughes, chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, the new head of road policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), says access to roads should be rationed according to ability.
Speaking at a Safer Roads: Safer Drivers conference, organised by the Institute of Advanced Motorists in London last week, he warned: ‘This really is not the time for people who can’t cope with today’s roads.
‘Driving is a privilege which you earn, not a right, by continuing to observe the laws our democracy puts in place. If you can’t do that, then you should not be able to drive, whoever you are.’
Hughes insisted that this tough stance will apply across the board, with police drivers leading by example, following recent high-profile reports that deaths of members of the public involving police cars rose one-fifth last year to 44.
Outlining his vision for the future, Hughes said it would be defined by a culture of personal responsibility, with a focus on continuous improvement and encouragement of pride in good driving, not just the car. Although technology such as speed cameras and even speed limiters will play a greater role in helping police make the most of their stretched resources, he said cultural change was the only really effective way to make a permanent difference.
Hughes added: ‘Technology designed to adapt driver behaviour is subordinate to the need to improve driver behaviour itself. Driving skill is important, whether through ability alone or through encouragement, education, re-education and retraining where necessary.’
Hughes, who replaces the controversial chief constable of South Wales, Richard Brunstrom, in the influential ACPO Road Policing role, said skills learned from extra driver training had twice saved his life during his career.
He added: ‘Modern cars contain a lot of distractions and are much more sophisticated. The road environment is much more challenging, so we can not have yesterday’s skills for tomorrow’s roads.’
That meant dealing with offenders and sub-standard drivers ‘with an iron fist in an iron glove’ while striving to encourage safer driving through the culture of personal responsibility. Hughes said there was no special treatment for fleet operators, as they were part of a bigger picture, but fleet managers had to understand the legal environment in which they were operating.
This includes the launch of a new Road Safety Bill, which could see more drivers banned for speeding offences, a new Corporate Manslaughter Bill, designed to make companies more responsible for their actions and changes to the Reporting of Injuries, Deaths and Dangerous Occurrences regulations to include incidents involving company transport.