Road Safety News

Motoring offences fall by a third in Scotland

Wednesday 16th September 2015

Motor vehicle offences in Scotland fell by a third in the year to March 2015, but still account for more than half (52%) of all offences, new statistics from the Scottish Government reveal.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has expressed concern that the number of convictions has fallen significantly at a time when road deaths in Scotland increased slightly.

Total motor vehicle offences stood at 195,985 for 2014-15 - down from 294,091 in the previous 12 months.

The figures include a 50% reduction in mobile phone offences, from 35,764 in 2013-14 to 17,978 in 2014-15. This figure has dropped for the first time since 2008/09 and mobile phones now account for 9% of all motoring offences.

Similarly, seatbelt offences also fell by more than half (59%) from 37,880 to 15,619.

Speeding is still the most common offence (31%) but the number of convictions also fell sharply in the same period - down 26% from 82,382 to 60,926.

Convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs fell by 14% to 5,218, while dangerous and careless driving offences were down 7% to 10,773. Unlawful use of vehicles fell by 29% to 40,855.

Neil Greig, IAM’s policy and research director, told The Scotsman: “On the face of it, this looks like a good news story for road safety, with a big fall-off in the number of those caught doing things behind the wheel that are widely accepted as being dangerous.

“Given the high profile for road safety we were promised by chief constable Sir Stephen House, I would have expected a rise in convictions rather than a big fall.”

Despite the fall in the number of offences, in the same period the number of road deaths increased by two to 192, while serious injuries fell by 83 to 1,627.

Neil Greig added: “The most worrying aspect is deaths have increased despite fewer convictions. It is vit­al for the future of enforcement policy that this link is fully investigated. We need to know if the police are targeting the right offences, in the right place, at the right time and in sufficient numbers.”


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Thanks for the explanation Duncan.

To describe someone who is driving without due care and attention as "fully compliant" just because they themselves "might" not be aware they are falling below "acceptable" standards of driving seems not right to me. They may not be aware they are breaking the law by driving without due care and attention when they have crashed but that doesn't mean they weren't driving below Highway Code standards. Fully compliant with a sub-set of the Highway Code may be a better statement for you to make? But I guess we will have to agree to differ.

I agree with Hugh, I think, in that the potential in probably us all to sometimes drive below HC standards needs to be addressed by education, engagement, enforcement etc.
Nick, Lancashire

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Quite right Duncan. So their mistakes need to be pointed out to them, as I said, and reinforced via the laws, so that they are not repeated. Agreed?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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One man's 'finely judged' overtake is another man's 'reckless driving'. One man's 'appropriate speed' is another's 'too fast for the conditions' and so on and so forth. This is the 'local rationality principle' at work;

Essentially people do what makes sense to them considering the circumstances that surrounded them at the time.

Every driver and rider (including Hugh) operates under the constraints of the local rationality principle and most often they will be correct in their assumptions, but occasionally, just occasionally they will be wrong.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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What Duncan says may be right in that those who do drive without due care and attention or carelessly and recklessly may not be aware of it (doubtful) but that does not excuse it or make it acceptable, so surely the whole point of road safety education and enforcement is that they are made to be aware of it and the seriousness of it is reinforced with penalties.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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By fully compliant Nick, I mean that the vast majority of drivers involved in accidents are not breaking any of the must/must not rules in the Highway Code. Such things as a charge of driving without due care and attention are listed as must nots in the Highway Code, but they are purely a matter of post-hoc opinion and can be struck down by argument. Crossing a double white line on the other hand is also a must not, but that cannot be struck down as it would be a matter of fact not opinion.

No driver ever thinks they are driving dangerously or without due care or attention therefore as far as they are concerned they are indeed fully compliant.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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As Idris mentioned in his first paragraph: There are lies, dammed lies and statistics.
Bob Craven, Lancs. Space is Safe Canpaigner

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Once again I ask what you mean by a "fully compliant driver"? There is no ulterior motive in me asking I just want to understand all viewpoints in these discussions. As a for instance, does your definition include driving without due care and attention or whatever the current legal definition of looking where you and other road users are likely to be going/coming from?
Nick, Lancashire

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As always we see the problem of whether offences - and indeed crimes of all kinds - have actually fallen or whether reporting of them has fallen or the definitions have changed or indeed the proportion of offences the police are aware of but choose to ignore has risen.

And once again we see variations in Hugh's comments. Not long ago he wrote here that he preferred to reply on his own opinions rather than evidence, but in the second comment here he ticks off Duncan for doing the same. Yet in his most recent comment here he says he is sure of something for which there is not and never will be any meaningful evidence.

But am I surprised? Not really.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

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Fairly obviously perhaps, the authorities would have to detect and prosecute EVERYONE commitiing offences to be sure of having any impact on collisons. Even then it's long term. If it wasn't for enforcement leading to bans or change of driver behaviour, collision rates would, I'm sure, be worse.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Nick and readers

My apologies. It does appear that I made a mistake there. Thanks for checking.

If the 2013/14 and 2014/15 figures hence only included manned speed checks, then I wonder if this reflects less police activity and the same amount of speeding or the same activity but less speeding.

It would appear that all the other offences reported do depend on police activity as well and therefore could be subject to the same reason for a reduction.

What would be interesting is whether speeding from unmanned checks remained constant or was subject to the same reduction as those dependent upon police resources.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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Rod (4 posts below this one)

We have been back through the Scottish Government statistical report in detail and believe there are no comparability issues when looking at data for the periods 2013/14 and 2014/15, which means the percentages quoted in our article above are legitimate.

If you go to the foot of page 21 of the Scottish Government report you will see it reads:
"Comparisons for the whole group (of motor offences) can be made for 2013-14 onwards."

Annex A (page 23) presents a full table of the non-comparable periods.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

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Clearly we have a difference of opinion regarding what you call compliant. Perhaps there is a bit of a "give-away" with the phrase you use "fully compliant, non-speeding". If your definition of "non-compliance" does not include "speeding" then I suspect it excludes several other factors which I would suggest were "non-compliant".

You should also be aware that the inability to prove non-compliance is not proof of compliance.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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Rod very kindly references the offences report yet those data have no link to any fatality data. The hypothesis that has been arrived at by close scrutiny of all the data available is that the biggest killer is the fully compliant, non-speeding driver and these figures do not dispute that in any way.

The Government has known this for several years now as evidenced by the creation of the ridiculous charge of 'causing death by careless driving' which could only have ever come about because the hypothesis is correct. If Rod could provide one scintilla of evidence that the hypothesis is wrong then I'm sure we would all be very pleased to see it.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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We are investigating the data you reference below and will respond fully in the next 24 hours.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

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I think that before rushing to proclaim that these results confirm your hypothesis you should look at the report itself. It references another report explaining the anomolies whereby automated speed camera offences were not included in the 2013-14 stats because they did not involve any police resources.

At the bottom of page 18 you will find :-

"The crime codes that are affected by the exclusion of data from the Scottish Safety
Camera Programme are (further details in Annex B):
Speeding in restricted areas differences between legacy force data and ScOMIS data ranged from 44% to 48%
Other speeding offences differences between legacy force data and ScOMIS data ranged from 49% to 58%
Driver's neglect of traffic directions (not pedestrian crossing) differences between legacy force data and ScOMIS data ranged from 10% to 23%
Driver's contravention of pedestrian crossing regulations differences between legacy force data and ScOMIS data ranged from 2% to 4%
Motorway traffic offences differences between legacy force data and ScOMIS data ranged from 54% to 59%

This has the following impact on comparability (further details in Annex A):
The data for these five crime codes are comparable prior to 2007-08 but from this year onwards they are not.
The data for these five crime codes for 2013-14 are neither comparable with
the data prior to 2007-08 nor with the data for the period 2007-08 to 2012-13."

Hence the idea that speeding offences fell by 26% is incorrect and I would suggest that RSGB should look at modifying the above article accordingly.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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Doing normal things maybe - but doing them badly and irresponsibly is the big difference. That is invariably driving without due care and attention, dangerous driving, speeding, under the influence etc, not exactly what you'd call fully-compliant. For those who behave like this, their luck eventually runs out and it always ends in tears. More enforcement - covert if necessary - to stop these people before it gets to that stage.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Rod seems to forget that all fatalities are thoroughly investigated so the state of compliance of the drivers involved is a matter of record.

Sadly accident reports are not made public, but in the recent research done by Elaine Hardy in Northern Ireland the findings were that most fatal accidents were not the result of rule breaking. In any socio-technical system such as road transport it will always be the case that between 85-99% of unwanted outcomes will be the result of people doing normal things in off-normal circumstances. Compliance with the rules and laws is the normal state for most users of the road tyransport system so the role of non-compliance in accidents will be insignificant.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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Note that road deaths in Scotland for the past 5 calendar years have been :-

2010 208
2011 186
2012 174
2013 172
2014 200


Of course unless Scottish policemen have suddenly been issued with crystal balls then their ability to accurately assess and report the cause of crashes and whether drivers were "fully compliant" is as compromised as ever.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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In your opinion Duncan - don't present it as an actual fact. Few would accept it anyway.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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The biggest killer on the roads is the fully compliant, non speeding driver. This statistical survey now puts that fact beyond any doubt.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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