Parliament’s Transport Select Committee says that the falling number of recorded crimes on our roads does not represent a reduction in offences being committed and has warned that cuts in traffic officers stops some offences being detected.
A new report notes that the number of traffic police fell 7,104 to 4,356 between 2005 and 2014, and the number of motoring offences logged more than halved over the same period.
While it notes that technology has filled the gap in some ways, it says there must be the likelihood that offenders will be apprehended and that some misdemeanours such as careless driving cannot be effectively detected and enforcement action taken.
“Every loss of life on UK roads is a tragedy,” the committee says. “Although Government figures show a welcome downward trend over the past decade, the most recent figures show a four per cent increase in road fatalities in 2014. The number of people incurring serious injuries also rose by five per cent.”
For cyclists and motorcyclists, the picture is more concerning as the numbers killed or seriously injured has been rising year on year.
Chair of the Transport Committee, Louise Ellman MP, said, “The fall in overall road offences does not reflect an improvement in driving. The Department for Transport says education, engineering and enforcement are key to road safety. One cannot exist without the other.
“The Committee recommends research to determine whether the use of diversionary education courses for poor driving has produced the required deterrent effect.
“If enforcement of road traffic laws is to be effective, the decline in specialist roads policing officers must be halted. Engineering and education have a role to play but there must be a real likelihood that offenders will be stopped and prosecuted.”
RAC head of external affairs Pete Williams gave his reaction, saying, “The RAC welcomes the findings of the Transport Select Committee’s report. The sharp decline in roads policing officers – something the RAC highlighted over a year ago – appears to be having the very unwelcome effect of leading to fewer people being caught for illegal activity. It stands to reason that if a law exists, it needs to be enforced effectively.
“While the priorities for policing are a matter for each individual force, evidence suggests there is a large proportion of the public that want to see more police catching offenders on our roads. 60% of those we spoke to for the RAC Report on Motoring said that they believed there were insufficient police, leading to more motorists getting away with putting themselves and other road users at serious risk.”
While technology has been widely used to monitor speeds and enforce limits, other bad driving is not being automatically detected. This is despite the existence of equipment which, for example, can use radar to detect tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic and travelling in the incorrect lane. This equipment is not currently approved for use in the UK.