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Why we must all work together to keep people safe on our roads

In her latest blog, PCC Alison Hernandez focuses on road safety and how communities can help keep their roads safe.

Making our roads safer is something I care deeply about and I am determined to do what I can as police and crime commissioner to help.

Road safety is an issue that is raised constantly with me by members of the public and by councillors as I travel across Devon and Cornwall. In many cases it is concern about speed but communities are also concerned about people driving under the influence of drink (especially in rural areas) and the use of mobile phones whilst driving.

Reports on road safety tend to focus on statistics around the number of KSIs (people who have been killed or seriously injured) on our roads and these are hugely important to me as well. But I am also determined to see what we can do to resolve these wider community concerns about road safety. 

Many of our rural communities have busy roads running through them – often a local shortcut to avoid the traffic on the A30, the A38, the north Devon link road or our other busier roads. People living in these communities are often worried about the speed of cars travelling through their villages and the risk this poses to the elderly or young children.

People are also concerned about obstructive parking that blocks visibility and junctions – and often they feel confused about whether the police or councils are responsible for addressing these issues.

Like many of you, I have been deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life we have seen over the past few months on our roads. It is a shocking fact that in the 12 months to June this year 54 people were killed on Devon and Cornwall’s roads. This is 10 more than the previous year and as many readers will be aware the summer months saw yet more tragedy on our roads. My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have been killed and with those who have suffered what can often be life-changing injuries.

I would like to pay tribute to the dedicated officers and staff working in the police, fire and ambulance services who have to deal with the aftermath of these accidents – something I know deeply affects them.

We simply must do more to reduce the number of lives affected by road death and injury.

I want to work with my colleagues in our councils and with other agencies to explore what more we can do collectively to make our roads safer. I am also leading nationally for PCCs on road safety now - along with my PCC colleague in Dorset Martyn Underhill - so we can help to shape and improve road safety policy at the national level.

Last month I spent time with officers from Devon and Cornwall Police and partner agencies in Plymouth as part of a multi-agency day of action which was focused on the five main causes of road accidents – what is known as the Fatal 5 (excess speed, failure to wear a seat belt, using a mobile phone, driving under the influence of drink or drugs and careless or inconsiderate driving).

The day was a mixture of education and enforcement and over 70 people were reported for offences – many of whom will opt to go on to an education course. This is exactly what we want to see, it is not about penalising people, it is about keeping people safe.

How we design our roads also has an important part to play as does new technology like black boxes but enforcement and engineering can only do so much.  What we need to do is change people’s behaviour.  We need people to understand the risks they are putting themselves, their passengers and other road users under and the steps they can take to make themselves safer.  Going above the speed limit to get home that little bit earlier or to get to the school gates in time for pick-up or using a mobile phone to text your partner that you are running late - how many of us can truly say that we have never done these things?  We all lead busy lives and there are times when it’s ok to multi-task – but not when you’re behind the wheel!

I am a huge supporter of some of the excellent initiatives we have seen coming out of Devon and Cornwall Police over the past few months. The Special Constabulary has also been doing a tremendous job on rural road safety – working with a range of partners including Dartmoor National Park and the brilliant No Excuses team. An amazing effort that rightly won them team of the year at the Regional Special Constabulary and Volunteer awards this weekend.

The public can also get involved in keeping their local roads safe. There are a number of community speedwatch schemes operating across Devon and Cornwall and more are in the pipeline. These schemes involve local community members who receive training being able to carry out speed detection exercises in their local area (with equipment provided) and those who are speeding will receive a warning letter. More information can be found about community speedwatch at www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/advice/on-the-road/speed-watch

Changing behaviour on our roads is not easy.  It has taken decades for driver attitudes to seat belts to change and there are still far too many people who drink and drive but it is important that we persevere as the human cost is far too great.

Alison Hernandez

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