Figures obtained by the Telegraph under a Freedom of Information request, reveal that many chief constables are cutting back on the number of officers they are allocating to roads policing.
Of the 35 forces who responded, 20 had cut the number of dedicated traffic officers and the overall reduction was 4.3%.
The Telegraph highlights Essex as an example: in May 2010 Essex Police had 268 officers specialising in traffic duties, but 12 months later their ranks had fallen to 221. The paper also points to figures showing that 24% fewer motorists were breathalysed in May 2011 compared with 12 months earlier – a consequence, it says, of the Government’s austerity programme.
The Telegraph article also refers to official casualty statistics showing that the number of people killed or seriously injured rose during the first three months of 2011 – the first increase in more than four years.
Robert Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: “Roads policing is a key contribution to cutting casualties. Reductions in police officers will result in increases in risk on our roads.”
Kevin Delaney, road safety adviser for the Institute of Advanced Motorists, added: “Reductions in police budgets will inevitably lead to further reductions in traffic policing, a policy which has been quietly pursued by most chief constables for the past 15 years. In fact it is probable that funding cuts will bear most heavily on aspects of policing with lower internal priority such as traffic policing.”
The figures were seized upon by Maria Eagle, Labour’s transport spokesman, who said: “Coming on top of the Tory-led Government’s decision to axe road safety funding and targets for reducing deaths and serious injuries, the cuts in front line officers available to tackle traffic offences will inevitably lead to reduced safety on Britain’s roads.”
Mike Penning, road safety minister, defended the Government’s record, saying that forces would soon be testing equipment devices which could be used to provide evidence in court.
He added: “Britain has some of the safest roads in the world and the latest statistics show deaths and injuries continue to fall this year. It is for chief constables to deploy officers where they are most needed.”
Click here to read the full Telegraph report.