The Government is being urged to invest in roads policing and fast track technology to catch drivers who flout traffic laws.
Some 1,800 people die on UK roads each year – more than twice the number of deaths from homicides and terrorism combined. A further 25,000-plus people are seriously injured.
However, over the past decade, the number of roads policing officers has decreased substantially.
While the total number of police officers has fallen by around 13% since 2010, there was a 22% reduction in the number of dedicated roads policing officers between 2010 and 2014, and a further reduction of 18% since 2015.
In 2019, dedicated roads policing officers made up only around 4% of total force strength.
Furthermore, of those dedicated officers, many are often ‘double-hatted’, with responsibilities for carrying out more than one policing function.
The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), in a report published today (Thursday, June 4), criticises successive cuts in roads policing.
It wants the Government to specify roads policing within its pledge to fund 20,000 additional police officers.
PACTS executive director, David Davies, explained: “The number of road deaths is more than twice the deaths from homicide and terrorism combined and breaches of road traffic laws are the biggest single cause of road deaths. This needs to be recognised in the Government’s priorities and resources for policing.”
Many of the casualties on UK roads result from a failure to comply with traffic laws – knowingly or otherwise, says the report.
Around two-thirds of collisions involve excessive speed, a driver over the legal alcohol limit, failure to wear a seat belt, or a combination of these factors. This does not take into account other offences, such as drug driving or hand-held mobile phone use.
Since 2010, the long-term decline in the number of road deaths and serious injuries has largely ceased, with many suggesting this is at least partly due to reductions in roads policing.
International research of the effectiveness of roads policing in increasing compliance with traffic laws and reducing road casualties, has been shown to cut some collision types by around a quarter.
A detailed analysis by PACTS of the ‘fatal 4’ offences (speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, driving under the influence of drink or drugs, and using a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel) since 2010, shows that where enforcement has been increased, compliance has improved and casualties have dropped; but where cutbacks have affected enforcement, there has been little or no improvement.
The PACTS report – Road Policing and its Contribution to Road Safety – investigates links between roads policing, compliance with traffic laws and road casualties, and looks for ways to enhance the effectiveness of roads policing, ahead of a Whitehall review,
It says that the wider use of technology to “monitor, deter, detect and prosecute” should be exploited to help police target high-risk individuals and assist in improving compliance with seat belts, mobile phones, drink driving and other safety requirements – not just speed.
It is calling for a review of Home Office type approvals to allow for the development and implementation of technologies such as cameras with more than one purpose and evidential roadside testing equipment.
The report says that there is “clear public support” for enforcement of traffic laws and a desire for more visible roads policing.
“Use of speed cameras is supported by the majority, but with sensitivity,” it adds.
Figures from Lex Autolease showed that the volume of motoring fines and penalties incurred by company car and van drivers increased by 3%, last year.
Davis said: “The public support more enforcement. Roads policing provides double value: tackling those who drive dangerously often disrupts wider criminality.
“For example, Essex police found that almost half the drug-drive offenders had previous arrest records for serious crimes such as burglary, drug dealing and violent crime.”
GEM Motoring Assist has welcomed the recommendations made in the PACTS report.
GEM chief executive Neil Worth said: “Our members support more enforcement. The public supports more enforcement. The report highlights the success of roads policing in improving levels of compliance with traffic laws and reducing road casualties. Effective roads policing has been shown to cut some types of collision by around a quarter.
“We welcome this report and urge the Government to make roads policing a national priority.
"There should be no further cuts to roads policing - in fact we want an increase in the number of specialist roads policing officers who can support communities in ensuring there is no place for the minority of lawbreakers who pose such a threat to safety and security on our roads.”
The report also suggests the public should be involved to improve road safety, with schemes such as Operation Snap, which allows drivers to upload dash cam video evidence, proving “popular, manageable, and effective”.
Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for roads policing, welcomed the PACTS report.
“It comes at a time when a number of key institutions, including the Government and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services are also interested in how we police our roads,” he said.
“There are more than twice as many road deaths as homicides in the UK every year. This shows how significant road death still is.”
A road safety charity, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) promotes evidence-based policies to improve to road, rail and air safety.
It works with Government, Parliament, experts and stakeholders, and its founders were responsible to for the 1981 legislation which made it compulsory to wear a seatbelt in the front seat of a car.