While traffic-law enforcement reduces the frequency of fatal road collisions, ‘inconsistent enforcement’ may be contributing to thousands of deaths each year worldwide.
That’s the top line finding from a summary of peer-reviewed research prepared by Dr Adrian Davis, a visiting professor at the University of West England.
Dr Davis publishes a series of single page ‘essential evidence’ summaries in order to help disseminate academic research to road safety practitioners.
In his latest summary, titled ‘traffic-law enforcement and its relationship with risk of death from crashes’, Dr Davis says: “An individual’s motor vehicle driver’s crash risk depends on how that person drives and how other road users behave.
“For example, red light violations are a major cause of traffic crashes at signalised intersections. Rigorous testing of the effectiveness of traffic enforcement for preventing deaths might contribute to better decisions.
“Some prior research has suggested that strong evidence exists to support a severity effect, that is, an increase in the statutory severity of sentence maxima for traffic violations leads to a decrease in crash and injury rates—approximately an average 0.5% reduction in monthly crash and injury rates.
“Researchers explored this issue with a large cohort of drivers in Canada by identifying drivers in fatal crashes between 1988 and 1999 in Ontario.
“More than 10 million people were studied for longer than a decade. Conviction of drivers for traffic offences reduced the rate of fatal crashes. Each conviction led to a 35% decrease in the relative risk of death over the next month for drivers and other road users; conversely, each conviction not issued led to a corresponding increase in risk.
“The findings also imply that increasing the frequency of traffic enforcement might further reduce total deaths, and that emphasis of moderate penalties (around three points) is useful as a deterrent to traffic violations.”