RAC data confirms falling number of roads policing officers
The number of full-time roads policing officers in England and Wales has fallen by 27% since 2010, according to data published by the RAC.
Figures supplied to the RAC in answer to a parliamentary question show there were 3,901 dedicated roads policing officers (excluding London) in 2015, 1,437 fewer than in 2010.
The figures are similar to those reported by Auto Express, who in January claimed that the number of full-time traffic police operating in England and Wales has been cut by almost a third since 2010.
The RAC figures also show a year-on-year decrease; 30 out of 42 forces recorded a fall in the number of roads policing officers between 2014 and 2015, collectively accounting for 352 fewer officers.
The fall in policing numbers comes against a backdrop of new traffic laws, including roadside drug-driving tests and a ban on smoking in cars carrying passengers under the age of 18-years
When the new smoking law came into force in October 2015, a RAC Opinion Panel suggested that 92% of motorists did not have confidence that it would be effectively enforced, while the RAC Report on Motoring 2015 revealed that 79% of respondents felt there was no point in increasing penalties for driving offences until there was effective enforcement.
In March, a Parliamentary report into the enforcement of road laws concluded that motoring offences are failing to be detected due to a decline in the number of specialist traffic police officers.
RAC head of external affairs Pete Williams said: “Overall, these figures make for grim reading and are likely to be met with dismay by law-abiding motorists.
“While some of the numbers may be explained by organisational changes, such as officers taking on multiple roles and police forces working in partnership to tackle crime, the data still clearly shows that a majority of forces have seen a further fall in the number of officers whose primary responsibility is tackling crime on our roads.
“We are acutely aware that the police are doing their best to manage challenging budgets and scant resource; however the sustained reduction in roads policing officers is at odds with the consistent number of serious motoring offences being committed, and the concerns already expressed by motorists around the lack of visible police presence on our roads.
“The UK has a multitude of laws governing our roads – but a reducing number of dedicated individuals out there to enforce them. Plans to increase penalties for the use of handheld mobile phones at the wheel are welcome, but risk being undermined by falling numbers of dedicated roads police officers.
“The RAC believes the motoring public deserves honesty from the Government around whether there are enough resources in place to apply the law and cut down on illegal driving behaviour, some of which undoubtedly puts innocent lives at risk.”