Last week was pretty eventful for anyone who is interested in road safety data, with three significant reports published within the space of a few days.
First came the Department for Transport’s annual figures. These showed the number of people killed or seriously injured on Great Britain’s roads. It made for depressing reading. There were 1,752 fatalities in Great Britain and 25,945 serious injuries.
Then we heard the results from the week of operations that took place under the Project Edward (Every Day Without A Road Death) banner. Thirty eight forces took part and dealt with 16,851 offences, of which 15,970 were speeding offences. A total of 260 drink driving cases were dealt with. Despite the additional roads policing effort there were 17 fatal collisions during the period.
Finally, the results of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ roads policing survey were made public on Friday. Promoted by me nationally as APCC lead for road safety I am pleased to say that this was the association’s largest ever survey, with 66,266 responses.
Of those who took part more felt safer than unsafe on the roads where they live but people are clearly fed up with people flouting the law and being seen to get away with it.
Eight out of ten said they saw road traffic offences on a daily or weekly basis. Seven out of ten either agreed or strongly agreed that fixed penalty notices for road traffic offences like speeding and failure to wear a seatbelt (currently £100) should be increased in line with other serious offences like driving while using a handheld mobile phone (currently £200).
And nine out of 10 either agreed or strongly agreed that some of the money raised through fixed penalty notices should be reinvested into enforcement and road safety measures to deny criminals the use of the roads.
It’s a common misconception that money raised from speeding fixed penalty notices goes to police. It doesn’t. Although some of the revenue from speed awareness courses does make its way into police budgets all monies raised from fixed penalty notices goes to central government for general expenditure.
I think the numbers of deaths and serious injuries that are related to road collisions are completely unacceptable, as is the fact that there has been little or no improvement in such a number of years.
The huge number of driving offences detected during Project Edward week indicate to me that drivers either think they will not get caught when flouting the law or they are unafraid of the consequences of being caught.
And the results of our survey into public opinion on road safety show me that there is an overwhelming appetite for greater penalties for those who break the law, coupled with a desire to see more enforcement of road laws.
If we are going to make a difference and reduce the needless tragedy that occurs on our roads every day then policing alone is not the answer. We need to change driver behaviour, improve collision response, get better at highway design and engage the driving public with our mission.
But roads policing is part of the solution. A stern talking to, a fine that will sting and the threat of losing your licence are, I believe, effective weapons in this battle.
I’d like to thank all of those who took part in my survey, which will now inform the Government’s consultation on roads policing. The survey was a great example of Police and Crime Commissioners working together to represent the voice of the public in law enforcement - it was promoted by commissioners around England and Wales - and it has given me the evidence I need to argue for greater penalties for those who put lives at risk on our roads and to argue that more money raised on this ‘polluter pays’ principle should be invested in road safety initiatives that should include policing.
Investing in roads policing not only has a calming effect on our roads in terms of speeds and dangerous driving, it also enables police to stop criminals from using the highway network for criminal gain.
Roads policing teams have disrupted people smuggling operations, drug dealing operations and other serious criminal enterprises by being present to pull over and search vehicles. They need specialist equipment like number plate recognition cameras and high-speed vehicles if they are to do more of this vital work.
Currently the Government is intent on saving lives and protecting the NHS. I hope it will seize this opportunity to take the bold steps that are necessary to build a safer highway network for us all.