The number of traffic police across the UK has reduced by 12% in five years, with some forces suffering 30-40% reductions, according to data released today (9 July) by road safety charity Brake and ‘webuyanycar.com’.
While the number of traffic police in Scotland increased by 4%, numbers were down by 31% in Wales and 13% in England. Brake and webuyanycar.com are warning that the cuts leave some parts of the country ‘dangerously short’ of frontline roads policing.
The largest cuts have been in: Bedfordshire, where roads police have been reduced by 44%; South Wales and Dyfed Powys (40%); and West Mercia and Hampshire, where reductions are more than a third.
Brake and webuyanycar.com are concerned that this will lead to forces struggling to enforce laws on drink driving, speeding and mobile phone use – and could potentially undermine the new drug driving law expected to come into force next year. The two organisations are urging the Government to make roads policing a national policing priority.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake, said: “It is desperately worrying such large cuts continue to be made to traffic policing, just as progress is being made to improve the law on deadly drug driving.
“Roads police officers do a vital job – their work is proven to save lives and prevent injuries and suffering. Cutting traffic police is a false economy, because the crashes and casualties they help to prevent inflict such devastation and are a huge drain on public services.”
Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “The IAM shares Brake’s concerns; road safety does not appear to be a high priority for new police commissioners, despite high public concern. What is needed urgently is joined-up Government thinking and leadership so that the benefits to the NHS can be shared among those who work on the front line of road safety.”
While admitting it also shares Brake’s concerns, the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) is critical of what it calls the charity’s ‘emotive rhetoric’, and a ‘money grabbing mentality’ that has replaced ‘properly trained police officers’.
A spokesperson said: “The ABD shares the concern of Brake about the reduction in traffic police, but considers that the kind of emotive rhetoric so beloved by Brake is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
“The reduction in traffic police has arisen for two reasons: some Government ‘expert’ who foolishly pronounced that traffic police were ‘elite’, and should be cut; and the ‘money-grabbing’ mentality that has replaced properly trained police officers capable of exercising discretion, with automated mugging machines.”