Select Committee on Transport Tenth Report

9  Conclusions

184. The Department for Transport has a clear road safety strategy and has made good progress towards its 2010 casualty reduction targets. But despite the efforts of many dedicated police officers, and other road safety practitioners, the Home Office continues to deny traffic law enforcement the priority it should have. Many tens of thousands of traffic law offences are committed every year and only a small percentage of these are detected and followed with police action. This neglect endangers all road users and, partly as a result, the UK continues to endure a death and injury toll on its roads which would not be deemed acceptable in any other aspect of daily life. The Home Office should explicitly adopt the 2010 road casualty reduction targets as part of its Public Service Agreement with the Treasury and as a key priority in its future National Policing Plans.

185. A higher profile and visible traffic enforcement effort, backed by significant investment, would bring important casualty reductions. We urge the Government and Chief Constables to make this a priority. The cost-benefit ratios of many measures now available are extremely promising. In order to make the most of traffic enforcement efforts, roads police officers need access to the best technological equipment available. New technological developments must be properly funded and researched. The Government should ensure that the type approval process achieves its objectives without hindering innovation. The government and manufacturers should work together to expedite the availability of new equipment which could radically improve the impact of roads policing and funding should be found to ensure a prompt roll-out nationwide. For example, we recommend time-distance (average speed) cameras are quickly installed, and roadside evidential breath testing equipment must be type-approved and available as a matter of urgency.

186. Roads police officers need proper training in how to use new technology. High quality training both protects officers operating in the road environment and increases the chances of successful prosecutions and justice for victims of collisions. Officers also need to apply the National Intelligence Model to deployment decisions to maximise the impact of operations. Care is needed to ensure that the technology which is available does not determine the type of enforcement undertaken, and that operations are decided according to evidence of risk. For example, Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology is a very useful piece of technology but it should not skew attention away from casualty reduction to 'denying criminals use of the road'. Perception of public and political concern over high profile crimes should not be given precedence over evidence indicating actual risks and the success of intervention measures.

187. Closer attention should be given to the social and cultural environment in which new enforcement technologies are introduced. The Department should re-examine the validity of the decisions it makes governing the use of new enforcement equipment. The case should be properly and publicly made for new enforcement strategies and technologies; the Department should not resort to artificially limiting their effectiveness in an effort to increase perceived acceptance. Where necessary, road traffic law should be updated to allow optimal use of new technological developments. The government should be bold in enabling the use of technologies which actually prevent offences being committed: for example, Intelligent Speed Adaptation and 'alcolocks' should be introduced as soon as possible.

188. The efficiencies which technology can bring should not be seen as a straightforward opportunity to cut the number of roads police officers. Technology alone cannot carry out the multitude of functions undertaken by a competent roads police officer. There is certainly value in drivers knowing that enforcement of all traffic regulations takes place regularly. We are concerned to learn that roads policing has become a secondary function in many forces and we deplore the long-term marginalisation of such a highly specialised and valuable sector of policing. We look to the Department for Transport, the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers—authors of the joint Roads Policing Strategy—to ensure that the Strategy is having a prominent and positive impact on policing decisions across the country.

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Prepared 31 October 2006