Visible Roads Policing and Enforcement

Road policing should be more visible, says CTC

Visible Roads Policing and Enforcement

CTC has made submissions to the Transport Committee Inquiry into Road Traffic Enforcement calling for a more visible and co-ordinated enforcement approach where driver re-training courses are not the default soft option.

The Transport Committee is conducting an inquiry into road traffic law enforcement. CTC has made submissions to the Committee regarding enforcement (or rather the lack of it), and particular issues regarding roads policing and the priority given to it. The key points within our submission were:

  1. There needs to be more visible roads policing. Traffic police numbers have fallen by 37% in eleven years whilst overall police numbers only fell by 3.5% in the same period.

  2. Chief Constables do not prioritise roads policing because the message they receive from government is that road crime is less serious than other crimes. To avoid roads policing bearing the brunt of further budget cuts the government needs to include casualty targets within its road safety strategy and make roads policing a strategic policy requirement for the police. Otherwise traffic officers will always bear the brunt of budget cuts.

  3. Other enforcement agencies need to be adequately resourced to perform an effective enforcement role. One in four road casualties in the UK involves a driver who is at work at the time (or their passenger). There is a particular issue for cyclists regarding unsafe lorries.The roles of both the Health and Safety Executive and the Transport Commissioners need to be strengthened to allow them to tackle the disproportionate role of work-related driving and lorries in road crashes, and the problem of rogue lorry operators.

  4. There is a major problem with the overuse of retraining courses offered to drivers as an alternative to prosecution and penalty points (1.35 million courses undertaken in 2014!). Freedom of information requests of various police forces show that since conditional fixed penalty notices were introduced for careless driving in 2013 over 70% of recipients have avoided penalty points by attending a retraining course. This is watering down the seriousness of careless driving as an offence when there is no evidence to show that retraining courses have an impact on driver behaviour.

  5. Bypassing the court system through the overuse of retraining courses is contributing to the reduction in driving disqualifications, with a 37% reduction in bans between 2009 and 2013. Evidence shows that driver behaviour is affected by the fear of prosecution and the risk of disqualification but instead we have a less visible roads police presence and a decreasing risk of disqualification.

This inquiry does not consider road traffic offences and penalties, which the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has said will be reviewed separately. CTC is pushing the MOJ for a start date for this long-awaited review and will contribute to that review once it commences. There are other points that could be made about the operation of the enforcement system but CTC has highlighted the key issues at this stage pending the MOJ review on offences and penalties. While specific points about fixed penalty notices, traffic commissioners and disqualifications are all important, the essential overarching requirement is the delivery of the message that roads policing and enforcement in all forms is a priority and not an optional service. 

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