A new report from the national road victims' charity, RoadPeace, says that cuts to traffic policing have come with a rise in the numbers of vulnerable road users killed and seriously injured, and a decrease in prosecutions for the more serious driving offences.
Our Lawless Roads is a detailed report on road policing, casualties and driving offences in England and Wales since 2010.
It states that the number of pedal cyclists killed or serious injured rose by 21 per cent between 2010 and 2015 and the case is made that this is likely to have been the result of ongoing road policing cuts.
In her foreword, Green Party peer and RoadPeace Patron Jenny Jones points out that since austerity started in 2010, England and Wales has lost over a quarter of its traffic police in areas outside of London.
Inevitably, this has also come with a big drop in the enforcement of driving offences by officers on the road and a decline in the prosecution of cases requiring investigation, court appearances and police time.
The number of drivers prosecuted for causing a death by driving has declined far faster than the number of fatal collisions and Jones writes: “Either the standard of driving has improved dramatically since 2010 or there is a link between the decline in the number of drivers prosecuted and the cuts to police numbers and the resources for collision investigation.”
She goes on to highlight a steadily increasing focus on crimes that can be addressed by electronic enforcement, such as speeding, and says that this goes alongside a decline for offences that require an officer on the street.
She adds: “This has been accompanied by a massive shift towards the use of driver education courses, rather than penalty points and fines. The scale of this shift needs to be questioned as the evidence for the effectiveness of these courses has yet to be determined.”
She concludes by saying: “The lesson is clear. If you want to save lives and prevent injuries on the road you need to reverse the cuts in traffic police numbers.”
The sentiment has been echoed by Cycling UK’s Duncan Dollimore, who said: “Unless people think, as the Transport Select Committee identified last year, that there is a realistic prospect they will be caught, and that there are real consequences for failing to stop when a cyclist or other vulnerable road user has been injured, the situation is unlikely to improve.”