Regular readers of this blog will know that I use it to talk about road safety an awful lot. That is because it is simply one of the biggest issues here in Devon and Cornwall and one of the most significant threats to all of our safety.
The past week has demonstrated how dangerous our roads can be.
Last Tuesday two people tragically lost their lives on the A38, in addition to numerous other serious incidents occurring that day. On Sunday a cyclist with serious head injuries was airlifted to Derriford hospital after a collision on the A39 in Bude, Cornwall. Another cyclist had to be assisted by the Dorset Air Ambulance after an incident in Crediton because Devon’s two helicopters were already tasked. And a motorcyclist also sustained serious injuries after a collision near Redruth.
My thoughts are with the families of the deceased and I wish those injured well on their journeys to recovery.
The sad fact is that while the collisions might not have been due to a mistake by the victims, the incidents were almost certainly avoidable. And while we do not know the circumstances of these recent collisions we do know that if vehicles are travelling at an inappropriate speed then injuries are more severe and loss of life is more likely.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reports that inappropriate speed contributes to around 11% of all injury collisions reported to the police, 15% of crashes resulting in a serious injury and 24% of collisions that result in a death.
Unfortunately far too many drivers get into bad habits that go unchallenged until they are involved in an incident.
Over recent years we have seen less of a focus on roads policing across the country, a fact recognised by the recent report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. The Chief Constable and I have been working hard over the past two years to boost our local investment increasing our number of roads policing officers and launching a new No Excuse Team focused on proactive enforcement and prevention activity.
Of course, many thousands of drivers in Devon, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly each year get caught by speed cameras or pulled over by police officers for speeding, careless or dangerous driving, having an un-roadworthy vehicle or any other of the many road traffic offences.
In 2018, (the most recent year for which full-year Department for Transport (DfT) figures are available) 1,784 people were killed on Britain’s roads. In addition, 25,511 were seriously injured. This is more than double the number of deaths from terrorism and murders combined. The 1,784 fatalities include 456 pedestrians and 48 children (15 and under).
I have thought for a long time now that the current deterrents are not considerable enough. While the maximum penalty for speeding is £100, litter from a car and it rises to £150. While littering might be abhorrent, it does not generally contribute to the severity of a road traffic collision like speeding does.
I also think that drivers, whether rightly or wrongly, think that their chances of getting caught are relatively low. For some time now I have thought that the solution is for fines for speeding to be increased, with a larger proportion of revenues raised going back to fund road safety schemes that would increase enforcement.
We know inherently that enforcement works. Thankfully, although I still see drivers on handheld mobile phones this is less common than it used to be since the maximum fine for this offence was doubled. And police officers speak of the circle of compliance that accompanies every police vehicle on our roads.
This month I launched a national road safety poll with the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners to gain a better understanding of people’s opinions of road safety and highways law enforcement.
I am asking people to complete the simple survey, which is open until the end of the month. A link to it can be found here. The results will feed into a Department for Transport call for evidence on road safety. Completing the survey takes literally a minute, and if we get enough responses we can be sure our voice will be heard loud and clear in Westminster on this vital topic.