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Motoring offences undetected due to fewer specialist traffic officers

15 March 2016

The Transport Committee publishes its report on road traffic law enforcement. The Committee says that the falling number of recorded crimes on our roads does not represent a reduction in offences being committed.

The report

Every loss of life on UK roads is a tragedy. Although Government figures show a welcome downward trend over the past decade, the most recent figures show a four per cent increase in road fatalities in 2014. The number of people incurring serious injuries also rose by five per cent.

For cyclists and motorcyclists, the picture is more concerning as the numbers killed or seriously injured has been rising year on year.

Although the number of 'causing death' offences has not fallen, MPs on the Transport Committee 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.

This suggests that the reduction in overall offences does not represent a reduction in offences actually being committed. As the number of traffic police has fallen, so too has the number of road traffic offences detected.

The Department of Transport uses education, engineering and enforcement to meet policy objectives in road safety – the three E's. While the use of technology and education have grown, the number of traffic police has fallen. More must be done to ensure detection rates are high, whether through specialised police officers or detection technology.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Transport Committee, 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.

The Committee recommends research to determine whether the use of diversionary education courses for poor driving has produced the required deterrent effect.

Inappropriate speed was a contributory factor in 16 per cent of fatal collisions. The vast majority of Fixed Penalty Notices issued for exceeding the speed limit are camera-detected but cameras cannot identify whether the driver is under the influence of alcohol or was driving carelessly.

More than one fifth of people seriously injured or killed on our roads in 2014 were not wearing seatbelts. A driver being impaired by alcohol contributed to eight per cent of all fatal accidents.

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."

Further information

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