Government announces roads policing review

08.05 | 16 July 2019 | | 7 comments

The Government has announced plans for a ‘first-of-its-kind’ joint review into roads policing and traffic enforcement, which will be launched later this year in a bid to improve road safety.

The two-year review – jointly funded by the DfT and Highways England and carried out in conjunction with the Home Office and the National Police Chiefs’ Council – will look at how roads policing currently works, its effectiveness, and where improvements could be made or gaps bridged.

Road Safety GB has welcomed the review, recognising the ‘crucial role’ the police play in making roads safer. 

A pilot programme based on the review and consultation feedback could be introduced as early as next year, and could include new initiatives and ways of working ‘to see what works best in reducing road casualties’.

Michael Ellis, road safety minister, said: “We have strong laws in place to ensure people are kept safe on our roads at all times.

“But roads policing is a key deterrent in stopping drivers breaking the law and risking their and other people’s lives.

“This review will not only highlight where police forces are doing good work, it will show what more can be done to improve road safety.”

The review will also look at how the police and different agencies work together, the information they share and what could be done to increase capability and capacity.

It will also consider how best to police roads in rural and urban areas, and the strategic road network.

Welcoming the review, Jeremy Phillips, Road Safety GB’s director of research, said: “Roads policing, the perceived threat of detection along with appropriate and effective sanctions for violations are a vital part of the road safety mix.

“It’s a key disruptor in the lapse, error and violation cocktail that we know leads to collisions – and the importance of an efficient and focussed roads policing service in enhancing the effectiveness of local road safety partnerships cannot be over-estimated.

“This will be an important and well timed review – casting, as it will, an informed, constructive but critical eye over our roads policing assets and how effectively they are used in themselves and in the broader context of collaborative, inter-agency working.  Road Safety GB welcomes this move and will offer any assistance that it can during the process.”

Steve Horton, Road Safety GB director of communications, added: “Road safety professionals who seek to influence attitudes and behaviour know the crucial role the police play in helping to make our roads safer. 

“The fear of detection is a prime motivator for many people; we know that if there is a 100% chance of being caught doing something you shouldn’t, then you won’t do it.  Equally, if there is a 0% chance of detection, then you will always do it. 

“The reality is somewhere in between, so a focus on roads policing needs to remind drivers that if you are acting illegally or inappropriately the chances of being caught are high. 

“Additionally, we know that out and out ‘violators’, who put everyone at risk, will not change their behaviour based on ‘education’ alone. We need support to ensure that these drivers are taken off our streets and roads policing is at the forefront of doing that.”

The Government says the review ‘will not increase the burden on existing police forces’ and points to new initiatives to help free up police time – including a new version of the collision reporting and sharing software provided to a smartphone app.

The app enables officers to accurately report crash data and locations on site, rather than having to return to a police station to duplicate paperwork on a computer.

The DfT has also invested in the development of roadside breathalysers, which once finished, will enable suspected drink drivers to be tested at the roadside, without having to go back to the police station for a test.

A call for evidence will be launched during the autumn, with findings and recommendations published in 2020.



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    It’s long been recognised that the elements of safer roads are Encourage, Educate, Enforce and Engineer. The advances in road safety have largely come from improved vehicle design and improved roads in the problem areas.

    The encourage and educate has been left to road safety partnerships who, being largely local authorities, have not seen it as a priority. Enforcement is a policing matter. While police resources generally have fallen by 25% in some areas, dedicated roads policing is a fraction of the size before their numbers were hived off to firearms, road crime units (and associated intelligence units) and collision investigation. The capacity and ability to detect and prosecute serious road safety violations is, in most forced reduced to nothing more than token gesture.

    The public will see through ‘efficiency’ drives. You can’t do more with very little in the first place.

    The public want policing by their peers who they can respect, not ever more policing via technical surveillance.

    The reviews sounds like a pre-determined fudge already awaits in the print room!

    Mark Vallis, Swadlincote
    Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

    I suppose that to get a better understanding of the relationship between policing and road safety, comparisons could be made between the policing practices at known crash “blackspots”, and their practices elsewhere in a given police area.

    If it is shown that the police are less active and/or more lenient around blackspots than they are on the rest of the local network, then it would give a clue as to whether improved policing or better road network design would be the best place to concentrate road safety improvement efforts in the future.

    Charles, Wells
    Agree (1) | Disagree (1)

    I would suggest that modern technology i.e. road side cameras and dashcam footage (to name just two examples) to detect and catch offenders is probably more resource efficient than perhaps officers on patrol anyway.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (5) | Disagree (4)

    The quickest win for all parties involved here would be to enable Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act that would then enable authorities outside of London and Wales to actually enforce moving traffic offences.

    Yes, it is widely known that Policing resources have dropped by 30%. So why ask them to enforce moving traffic violations when they are unable to do it now. Simply enable that part of the act and then ring fence the revenue to be spent on road safety measure and improvements because at this moment in time nothing is being done. The Police resources can then be freed up and spent on other crime prevention areas.

    A two year review – is simply too long.

    Stuart Scott, Chorley
    Agree (5) | Disagree (3)

    Hoorah! Another opportunity for the Carperbaggers in Wasteminster to see if there’s a ‘service’ that can be put out to tender or privatisation? Some law enforcement agencies in America are ‘self funding’. The Local Sheriff or Police Chiefs use the issue of tickets & infringed bye laws to pay for the running of local law enforcement? There is no ‘cost’ to taxpayers other than 99% of the population will get an enforcement fine notice for any small infringement of the law! You cannot convince me that those currently in power have not looked at this as a viable business model?

    Sandy Allan, Aberdeen
    Agree (1) | Disagree (6)

    It is a pity the review will look at how roads policing currently works as it will start with a review of probably the lowest number of specialist traffic officers. That said at least they are looking at the problem.

    Peter Wilson, Chichester
    Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

    > “Additionally, we know that out and out ‘violators’, who put everyone at risk, will not change their behaviour based on ‘education’ alone. We need support to ensure that these drivers are taken off our streets and roads policing is at the forefront of doing that.”

    I’d respectfully disagree.

    Otherwise we’d have several thousand serious accidents per day – where the blame of these accidents could have been attributed to emergency service workers – if actions by “violators” did by and large put folk at risk.

    I suspect this will be yet another missed opportunity for road safety.

    David Weston, Newcastle upon Tyne
    Agree (5) | Disagree (13)

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