The decline in numbers of specialist roads policing officers ‘must be halted’ to ensure better road safety, a group of influential MPs has said.
The latest research from the cross-party Transport Select Committee throws light on the steep decline in the number of detected motoring offences on the nation’s roads, a dramatic fall the MPs attribute largely to declining police numbers.
Although the number of “causing death” offences has not fallen, the MPs point to the ‘total number of detected motoring offences, which has more than halved during the past decade, from 4.3m in 2004, to 1.62m in 2013’.
Committee chair, 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.
‘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.’
The committee highlights that the vast majority of Fixed Penalty Notices issued for exceeding the speed limit are now camera-detected but ‘cameras cannot identify whether the driver is under the influence of alcohol or was driving carelessly’.
While Government figures have shown a strong downward trend in traffic incidents over the past decades, there were 1,775 road deaths in Great Britain in 2014, an increase of 4% on 2013.
The Committee states: ‘If enforcement is going to be effective as the number of dedicated road policing officers continues to fall, the use of technology is essential.’
Highlighting that speed cameras are an important and effective part of the technology toolkit, the Committee adds their placement must ‘relate to safety rather than revenue, and be sited in such a way that aims to reduce casualties’.
It goes on to recommend that the Government ‘monitor the placement of speed cameras by local authorities to ensure that this is the case’.
‘Where revenue is taken from speed camera enforcement, the funding arrangements must be transparent and the revenue put back into road safety grants rather than kept by local authorities or the Treasury,’ it concludes.
The amount of people not wearing seatbelts is also a ‘concern’, as the MPs highlighted that more than one fifth of people seriously injured or killed on the roads in 2014 were not wearing them.