An article in the Telegraph suggests that government plans to introduce fixed penalty notices for aggressive and careless drivers are compromised by figures showing that the number of dedicated roads police officers has fallen by nearly 23% in five years.
The DfT last week announced plans to allow the police to impose fixed penalty notices – including three points on a licence and a £100 fine – for an array of driving offences such as tailgating, poor lane discipline and cutting up other motorists.
The Telegraph says that while there will be plenty of officers in urban areas, extending the crackdown to motorways and trunk roads – where middle lane hogging is an issue – could prove more difficult when the new measures come into force next month.
Figures provided in a Commons written answer by Damian Green, a home office minister, show that the number of traffic police officers had fallen from 6,299 in 2007-8 to 4,868 in 2011-12.
Kevin Delaney, of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and former head of traffic at Scotland Yard, said: “The number of traffic police has fallen off a cliff. Ask yourself when was the last time you drove on a motorway and saw a police car on patrol rather than hurtling along the road. All the discussions we have been having about this are hypothetical because there aren’t any police to enforce them.”
The Road Haulage Association has also voiced doubts, and a spokesman said: “There are concerns among the public and professional motoring organisations about who is actually left to enforce the new restrictions, following the drastic reduction in roads policing officers.”
An AA spokesman said: “There will be targeted blitzes, particularly on stretches of road where there is a perceived problem of people tailgating or using hand-held mobile phones. You can get a short sharp shock, but then you get back to normal levels of policing.”
A spokesman for the DfT denied the proposals would be ineffective, saying: “These changes are being introduced following extensive consultation with police forces. It is for individual police forces to decide how they allocate their resources between roads policing and other areas.
“The fixed penalty is about providing police with a more efficient and flexible means of dealing with less serious cases of careless driving, that fall below the threshold of court action.”
Click here for more information.