Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO), responded to the Department for Transport call for evidence on 'Roads policing'.
Maxwell Scott explained the review is relevant to ACSO's work on helping to ensure the UK's roads are safe for all who use them, thereby helping to reduce the number of persons seeking compensation for their injuries. "Our particular focus is on the needs of vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists and pedestrians, who are disproportionately represented in statistics on injured and road traffic casualties.
"In 2019, there were 27,697 people killed or seriously injured in road traffic accidents (RTAs) in the UK. Of the 1,752 people who were killed, 27 per cent were pedestrians and 19 per cent were motorcyclists, despite cars accounting for 80 per cent of all traffic on British Roads.
"Enacting and enforcing legislation on key behavioural risk factors, such as speeding, driving under the influence and driving whilst distracted, is vital in helping to prevent deaths and injuries caused bu RTS. And yet, as highlighted by the independent assessment conducted by HMICFRS, the importance of road policing has been in decline for a number of years.... In the absence of road policing, individuals feel poor behaviour will not be detected and therefore do not give due consideration to road safety.
"it is important to be aware that declining numbers of road traffic officers in addition to changes in reporting practices and definition have distorted over the time the statistics on non-fatal RTAs. For example, although the number of traffic accidents recorded by the police has declined in recent years, there is little evidence to suggest that the number of traffic incidents overall has fallen. For example, hospital data suggest that the total number of casualties from RTAs has remained broadly consistent over the last decade, compared to a material decline in the number of accidents recorded by the police. I
"in order to provide an answer to why fatal and non-fatal casualties have remained fairly consistent, greater transparency is required as to the safety of UK roads. It is imperative that reporting practices remain consistent and that road traffic offers are available to record traffic incidents accurately."
Maxwell Scott noted that although the use of technology, such as safety cameras and interactive speed signs, improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of road policing, they should not not be considered as a means to justify substantial reductions in the numbers of traffic police.
"To take speed cameras as an example, questions are raised as to whether devices induce more collisions owing to the "kangaroo" effect of drivers abruptly slowing down in proximity to a camera before immediately speeding up once they are beyond surveillance. Furthermore, given the year-on-year increase in speeding offences in the UK since 2010, speed cameras do not appear to be a successful deterrent".
"If the government wishes to realise its 'bold vision for cycling and walking', as outlined in Gear Change, it is essential that all road users, particularly the vulnerable, feel confident they will be safe when travelling on UK roads. In order to improve public confidence and overall safety, it is essential that legislation on key behavioural risks are enforced, including the "fatal 4" offences of drink and drug driving, the non-wearing of seat belts, excess speed and driving whilst distracted. In conjunction, there is an urgent need to ensure road safety is prominent in the consciousness of politicians, police leaders and the public."
ACSO members can read the submission in full on the members' area of the website.