Select Committee on Transport Tenth Report

1  Introduction

1. Road crash fatalities and injuries have decreased over successive decades but the death toll remains far too high. In 2005, traffic collisions killed 3,201 people, seriously injured 28,954 and slightly injured a further 238,862.[1] Many of these casualties might have been avoided if there were a higher level of compliance with traffic law.[2] The Committee decided to investigate what role roads policing plays in casualty reduction and how performance could be improved.

2. Witnesses were invited to submit evidence on the following points:

  • Are traffic officers adequately resourced, trained and supported?
  • What impact has the joint Roads Policing Strategy had on the work of traffic officers? How has it influenced the priority given to roads policing, and the resources invested?
  • Have police forces across the UK got the balance right between technology-led enforcement and officers carrying out road policing duties? What evidence is there that the changing balance between traffic officers and technology has influenced casualty reduction rates?
  • How effective and how efficient is roads policing in reducing the number of road casualties? Are police forces concentrating traffic enforcement on the right areas and activities to achieve maximum casualty reduction? To what extent do approaches to traffic enforcement and casualty reduction differ between forces across the country?
  • How have technological developments affected both the detection and enforcement of drivers impaired through alcohol, drugs and fatigue? Is the best use being made of these technologies? What legislative, strategic and operational changes would improve the effectiveness of these technologies?
  • How will the new funding arrangement announced by the Secretary of State affect the work of the road safety camera partnerships? What lessons can be learned from the experience of speed limit enforcement using camera technology?
  • How effective are multi-agency approaches to safety issues? What steps are required to improve partnership work between the police, Department for Transport, local authorities and other agencies?

3. We are grateful to all those who submitted evidence to this inquiry (listed at the end of this report) and to the Ministers of the Department for Transport and Home Office for appearing jointly to give evidence. We are also grateful for the assistance of our Specialist Adviser, Robert Gifford, of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety.

4. This Report sets out the context of the casualty problem, the role of roads policing, and the relationship between police officers and technology. It then takes examples of particular offences and high risk driving behaviours and examines how technology has influenced their enforcement: speeding; drink-driving; drug-driving; driving while using a mobile telephone; and driving while impaired by fatigue. Road casualty reduction is achieved through a combination of road user education, improvements to vehicle design and the road environment, and enforcement of road traffic laws. While all these elements are vital, this report focuses exclusively on the role of roads policing and the contribution which enforcement can make to casualty reduction.

1   Department for Transport & National Statistics (2006) Road Casualties Great Britain: 2005 Annual Report Back

2   The Government collects data on the number of collisions and the number of road traffic offences, but it does not routinely match the two. Back

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Prepared 31 October 2006