Road Safety News

Death and KSI increases attributed to reduction in levels of roads policing

Monday 2nd February 2015

An article in the Independent (1 Feb) suggests that new figures from the DfT to be published later this week will show a “continued spike” in road KSIs.

In the article the Police Federation says the increase in road deaths for a third consecutive quarter is down to a reduction in the number of traffic police officers.

DfT figures released in November 2014 for the first half of the year (Jan-June 2014) showed a 3% year on year increase in road deaths and 4% increase in KSIs.

The Independent says the roads minister Robert Goodwill has “laid the ground for bad news” and warned of a “rise” in fatalities.

Jayne Willetts, Police Federation lead on traffic, told the Independent: “Police officers are absolutely frustrated by the rise in fatalities because, at the end of the day, we need more officers in marked cars acting as a deterrent.

“We welcome hi-tech developments, including the emerging smart motorway network, but the increasing reliance on automated technology and cameras can’t compensate for the decline in traffic police, who are the most effective way of combating dangerous drivers, drink drivers and people using mobile phones while driving.”

The article also includes contributions from Edmund King (AA), Neil Greig (IAM), Louise Ellman MP (chair of the Transport Select Committee) and David Davies (PACTS) all of whom express concern at the levels of roads policing.


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How about if we employ the extra teachers and incorporate road user education on a regular, progressive basis throughout the curriculum at every key stage? Then those extra teachers will provide our children with the knowledge and skills they need to form a sound foundation for their lifelong use of the roads, by whatever means of travel they may choose?
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

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On the news today it stated that over the last 4 years some 25% of traffic officers have been lost. At the same time it says that 100 million pounds is to be spent on school refurbishments and yesterday it said that we need to enrol a further 45000 teacher.

All we need is a further 25/30.000 police officers (they cost less than teachers) and then maybe we can cut the road death tolls by greater enforcement as a last resort.

My mother always told me to look after the little things and then they will not escalate. So by minimal policing hopefully word will get round and people will not proceed onto other more dangerous traffic antics or behaviours for fear of punishment.
Bob Craven Lancs Space is safe Campaigner

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Yes Honor. I see ambulance helicopters as essential to road safety. They should be paid out of the public purse and not subject to the financial vagueries of charitable donations. Let's face it they must account for the reduction of many deaths on our roads. They can fortunately get casualties to specialist treatments within that golden hour. Less deaths, reduced to serious injuries. They have to be taken into account for reducing many deaths over the last 10 years. I applaud their presence and the work that they do.
Bob Craven lancs......Space is safe campaigner

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I assume that you are referring to cutting police helicopters rather than air ambulances?
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

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First of all David I would get rid of the helicopters. A few years ago they flew almost every night over our heads in Blackpool, they were a nuisance. I can't remember when the last time was, maybe a couple of years ago. They cost millions to run and have little if no effect on road safety.

Second I would get rid of the plastic bobbies who are about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle. With little or no powers they have, in numbers (about 16000) replaced experienced officers senior in service, many of whom were in the traffic departments.

I would focus on culling the Inspectors, they are top heavy, by reducing the not so important offices that they now occupy for little return. Allowing them and their underlings the sergeants and other constables to undertake normal policing duties.

I would reduce the numbers of civilian staff and as is happening reduce the number of buildings that will become unoccupied by savings. I would get rid of the political appointment of the costly Czars and their entourage as they are just a scapegoat and leave policing to those who are in at the deep end such as chief officers.

Finally (for the moment) I would re-employ retired officers and create a new road traffic service re designed with a single purpose, one of road safety and that means both pro actively and by enforcement.
Bob Craven Lancs Space is Safe Campaigner

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This story is essentially about funding and was certainly not unexpected. Road safety consumes enormous resources but the authorities seem blissfully unaware that funding is limited and choices must be made.

The authorities have decided that we must fund speed cameras, lowered speed limits (particularly 20mph) and other initiatives rather than roads traffic police. This may not be a choice most would make but that's what they've decided. The jobs of roads traffic Police may be further in doubt as the speed camera network is set for further substantial expansion (smart motorways and digital replacement) and 20mph looks set for continued roll-out.

If you want to retain roads traffic police, how would you allocate resources differently?
Dave Finney, Slough

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Eric was right, it's my belief that a reduction in Trafpol has had an adverse effect on road safety but it's not the only consideration. There are, I am sure, many more circumstances that could be argued to be influential in these and other increases just as there are for decreases at other times. What is important is that we appear to be losing the third E of road safety, that of Enforcement.

It's OK saying that we have cameras and then an offender will receive the ticket in the mail some weeks later, pay it by card and then it's done, over with.

There is something to be said about the old fashioned policing of stopping and talking to an offender, making them aware that they have done something wrong and been caught and either b******d there and then and asked to produce documents etc, or the formal caution and threat hanging over them of being summoned to a court hearing and all the pressure and hopefully guilt and worry that will bring.

I believe that the old ways were better than now in which its become commonplace to continue to break (disregard) the law. Driving in some unsafe manner or put others at risk or be negligent in some way and to either get away with it as there appears to be no deterrent ie no policing.

Many of the general public would no doubt like to see an increase in police establishments and a return to the old days of seeing an officer back on the streets, preventing offences from happening and maintaining law and order. Self regulation never works.
bob craven Lancs ....Space is Safe Campaigner.

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Not clear at all how the apparent increase in ksi is suddenly linked to loss of Trafpol as this happened years ago - the effect of speed cameras on Trafpol numbers has been devastating over a number of years:

Trafpol numbers in areas: 1998/9, 2007/8, % fall:

North Wales: 236, 90, 61.9%

Cheshire: 205, 94, 54.1%

West Mercia: 238, 128, 46.2%

Surrey: 177, 98, 44.6%

West Midlands 405, 352, 13.1%

Staffordshire 208, 34, 83.7%

Just this week we read that in my home county of Staffordshire, police officer numbers as a whole are down 117 in 12 months making officer numbers the lowest since 2001.
Paul Biggs, Staffodshire

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If there is any form of comparison globally, then we may be seeing the effects on the economic states of the countries involved, as Eric has pointed out with the reference to Al Gullon's studies.!_good_times_ahead!.htm
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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Indeed Duncan. The fact in certain countries they had got so low in some places means they could only really rise.

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KSI figures are beginning to rise all over the place in countries as diverse as Sweden and Israel. It's difficult to work out how a reduction in roads policing in the UK can have an effect in those countries as well.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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You say "So you admit that lack of roads police has a negative impact, but then claim it cannot be linked to a rise in KSI? Sorry, does not compute."

I said that it is "likely to have a negative effect" but it's not possible to "attribute a rise in KSI to it (reduced police presence)".

To illustrate, it would help to plot numbers of roads police and casualties over the last, say, 5 years. Was there a sudden drop in police in 2013/14, or was it earlier, and what happened to casualties then?

And the rest of my posting touched on some of the many other factors that could have a positive or negative effect on KSI.

Your fish tank example suggests an over-simplistic view of cause, effect and evidence in road safety.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Researcher, St Albans

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I don't disagree - especially about the unmarked cars. When I mentioned ANPR, I should have also specifically mentioned the in-car cameras that can record the bad driving and which make it easier to secure convictions and which the Police spokesperson didn't acknowledge.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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I cannot agree that the rise in KSIs can be attributed solely to the reduction in roads policing any more than I would ascribe it solely to the reduction in the numbers of road safety officers or fewer road safety information campaigns. But they are all factors along with other issues including economic factors. None of these is the single cause but they all play a part.

I suspect that concurrent cuts in enforcement, education and publicity, along with other shortages and delays e.g. in A&E, and reduced road and vehicle maintenance due to economic pressures in combination are having a greater cumulative effect than we are yet able to calculate.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

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The big political guns have been roused from their slumber and are beginning to ask awkward questions.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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@Hugh Jones
ANPR has its place in catching persistent offenders, those with incorrect documentation, and wanted for other crimes. It does nothing for the enforcement/deterrent of the bad and dangerous driving we all see every day on the roads.

@Eric Bridgstock
So you admit that lack of roads police has a negative impact, but then claim it cannot be linked to a rise in KSI? Sorry, does not compute.

If you take all the water out of the fish tank, and the fish die, what probable links are obvious and require investigation?

Cars are safer, roads are being made safer, therefore the last link in the chain is the driver, and that is best managed by a healthy mix of marked and unmarked patrol vehicles with well trained officers permitted to use discretion to educate or prosecute. The driving test is one of the strictest I have come across, yet it is a one time deal, the removal of the red L then seems to mean that rules of the road, and even common sense no longer have any place on the highways.

When I first started, a panda would tug for a friendly telling you had a light out, some days it seems I am the only car out there with all lights functioning.

Smart motorways are NOT a safety initiative, they are about increasing capacity and flow, not about making the motorways safer.

As a former roadworker, I detest average speed cameras, I want drivers looking at me not their dashboard. What speed they hit me is broadly irrelevant if they can't even see me. I would rather someone hammer past at 80 but watching the environment, than plod past at 50 more worried about 3 points than my safety.
Steve, Watford

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"...but the increasing reliance on automated technology and cameras can’t compensate for the decline in traffic police..."

I presume the spokesperson has overlooked the role of the in-car ANPR systems that have made the traffic police's job a lot easier? Also, would she prefer her members be involved in a risky high-speed chase to catch one speeder, or, passive detection of many, via automated technology and roadside cameras?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (9)

While I agree that a reduced police presence on the roads is likely to have a negative effect on road safety, it is not possible to attribute a rise in KSI to it. There are many confounding factors with Al Gullon, for instance, claiming that casualty trends over many years track closely to the economic climate.

What concerns me most is that some of the "initiatives" being welcomed (such as "smart" motorways" and 20mph zones) are not backed up by any evidence that they have a net positive effect on casualties and I am aware of counter evidence (such as the Highways Agency's 2010 report on the effects of average speed cameras).

Too often single factors are cited as "good" or "bad" when the big picture far more complex. That's why evidence, or at least compelling argument, is so important.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Researcher, St Albans

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