Select Committee on Transport Tenth Report

Conclusions and recommendations

Setting the context

1.  We congratulate the Department for Transport, the police, local authorities and road safety professionals for the good progress that has been made toward the casualty reduction targets. This is a considerable achievement. There should be no complacency however, when over 3,000 people continue to be killed each year, and almost 30,000 are seriously injured. The number of deaths and injuries remains far too high. People accept a level of risk on the road which far surpasses anything they would consent to in other aspects of daily life, including other modes of transport. (Paragraph 7)

Number of roads police officers

2.  The experience of police forces is that roads policing requires specialised knowledge and skills, specific training and equipment. The practice of treating roads policing as a secondary or additional duty of officers engaged in other activities offers chief constables a high degree of flexibility in how they use their officers, but there is a significant danger that it will lead in the longer-term to a reduced priority for roads policing. This is nowhere more in evidence than in the fact that it is no longer possible to say with any certainty how many officers are now engaged with roads policing. Multi-tasking in this way requires careful monitoring, and if it is found that the arrangement further impedes the ability of police officers to dedicate the necessary time and resources to operational roads policing, a different approach should be introduced. The special role of roads police officers must be recognised and protected, and the high standards of roads policing—which have helped the UK's roads to be among the safest in the world—must be maintained. (Paragraph 23)

Use of 'non-sworn' staff

3.  Policing the roads is a complex and resource-intensive activity. The government has attempted to free police time by transferring responsibility for some roads policing tasks to non-sworn officers. In using subsidiary staff the Department for Transport and the Home Office must ensure that the lines of control and areas of responsibility are very clearly delineated. The onus is on the Government to ensure there is no drift of responsibility. In assessing the impact of the Highways Agency Traffic Officers the Government should evaluate the impact not only on traffic flows, but on other factors such as safety and protection of crash scenes and evidence. It should monitor any actual conflict between the responsibility of the Highways Agency to keep the network flowing and the need for the police to investigate crashes in considerable detail. The Government should set out guidelines to resolve these issues to determine a sensible balance between these two conflicting factors. (Paragraph 29)

National policing plans

4.  Failure to include roads policing as a priority in the National Policing Plan over a number of years seriously undermines the claim that roads policing is seen by the Home Office as a core part of police activity. In the future the Home Office must ensure that road safety and roads policing representatives are fully consulted when the priorities for the National Policing Plan are being determined. We recommend that the road casualty reduction targets become part of the Home Office's Public Service Agreements. Given the vital contribution that roads policing can make to casualty reduction, the targets should be explicitly acknowledged to be the joint responsibility of both the Department for Transport and the Home Office. The offences of drink driving, drug driving and disqualified driving are serious ones, and should be included in the Home Office Counting Rules for Recorded Crime. (Paragraph 38)

Evidence-based policing priorities

5.  The Home Office should base priorities in the National Policing Plans on evidence of the actual number of casualties which result from different types of crime, not the amount of publicity they generate. We welcome the decision by the Home Office and the Department for Transport to undertake research into the links between offences and collision data. The results of this research must be taken fully into account in police deployment decisions. (Paragraph 43)

The potential of roads policing

6.  In the interests of public safety, roads policing should be more about deterrence than about maximising the number of drivers caught for offending. We recommend that roads policing is guided by the conclusions of TRL's research into the methods and levels of roads policing. Visible, stationary roads policing units should be increasingly deployed randomly at different locations on the road network. This kind of visible policing will increase the deterrent effect and the perceived risk of detection across the network as a whole. The importance of visible roads policing should not be underestimated. In the context of rising numbers of 'hit and run' collisions the importance of a police presence is even greater. There is value in drivers knowing that enforcement of all traffic regulations takes place. (Paragraph 51)

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary assessment

7.  We are pleased that roads policing operations performed well in HM Inspectorate of Constabulary's assessment of protective services. But the result is undermined by the fact that it was not heavily influenced by actual casualty rates. Models and frameworks in place should form part of the assessment, but the single 'outcome' indicator of primary importance in assessing roads policing performance should be the level of road casualties and the casualty reduction rate. The police should periodically monitor 'real world' compliance with traffic law in order to give an indication of the scale of violations and to help target police enforcement efforts where they will have maximum impact. (Paragraph 55)

Promotional campaigns

8.  The level of road casualties each year is not widely known. The public should be educated about the number of people killed and injured, the dangers of driving and the risks of offending. While some excellent campaign materials are produced, exposure to these materials needs to be increased. The effort that goes into producing them should be matched by investment in ensuring the material reaches the target audience regularly and in the most effective way. Advertising campaigns should more effectively support enforcement campaigns to maximise the impact of roads policing. (Paragraph 60)

Roads policing strategy

9.  While the introduction of the Roads Policing Strategy was broadly welcomed there has been some doubt over the actual impact it has had. The Home Office, Department for Transport and ACPO must jointly commit to evaluate its effectiveness and set outcome performance indicators to assist such judgements. It is of concern that not all forces have adopted the strategy—the Home Office should put in place the incentives to ensure all do so. (Paragraph 64)

10.  It is a matter for concern that the emphasis of roads policing has to some extent transferred from road casualty reduction work to tackling terrorism. Both objectives are clearly extremely important. The need to deal with terrorism should not reduce efforts or resources in what should be a core policing function that includes tackling the driving offences most likely to result in a collision; such as speeding and impaired driving. (Paragraph 68)

Investment in staff

11.  There are many extremely dedicated and committed police officers working on traffic law enforcement. Technology must complement their role and not be seen as an excuse for reducing the number of roads police officers. In some forces there has been a tendency to see technology as 'freeing up' police officers to be deployed on duties other than roads policing—this approach is short-sighted. There are numerous serious traffic offences which technology cannot yet detect. In addition, technology cannot perform the educative role that police officers carry out. While it is hard to measure the value of stopping drivers to give a warning and some guidance, that type of intervention seems certain to have some effect in raising driving standards. The Police also play an important role in collecting the collision and casualty data which underpin the road safety targets and future strategies and interventions. Technology cannot replace police officers: its value lies in making roads police officers more efficient and effective in carrying out their duties. The Home Office and individual forces should properly invest in both roads police officers and technologies to enhance the impact of police enforcement. (Paragraph 75)

12.  New technology such as speed cameras and automatic number-plate recognition can make a significant contribution to road safety. But it should not be seen as an alternative to police officers on the ground. There are a number of important aspects of officers' work—warning and advising drivers, collecting collision and casualty data and, most importantly, detecting certain moving vehicle offences—which cannot be carried out by new technology. We recommend that the Government issue clear guidance to police forces about the role of new technology in supplementing, not supplanting, the work of roads police officers. (Paragraph 76)

13.  Most new enforcement equipment requires staff to interpret and act on the intelligence. If the resources are unavailable then the capacity of the technology is curtailed. The police are not able to maximise the impact of Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology because they do not have the resources to respond to every positive identification. This gives a worrying indication of the level of lawlessness on our roads. New technology must be supported by adequate police staff resources and skills. (Paragraph 79)

Applying the National Intelligence Model to roads policing

14.  The National Intelligence Model has an important role in improving intelligence-led policing and should help the police to identify where to focus resources to achieve maximum effect. We hope to see the Model more fully integrated into roads policing and casualty reduction, including at the local level. The Inspectorate should continue to evaluate progress in these important areas. (Paragraph 82)


15.  With the move away from specialist roads police officers to centralised roads policing units there must be a strenuous effort to ensure there is no reduction in the specialist training provided. Initial and refresher training for police officers must be improved. It is imperative that officers engaged in roads policing understand how to manage and protect the scene of a serious road collision, both for their own safety and for the quality of the crash investigation. Offenders must not have the opportunity to escape serious driving charges because of police failure to use equipment competently or as a result of procedural irregularities. (Paragraph 87)

Investment in technology

16.  We believe it signals an insupportable choice of priorities that Highways Agency vehicles designed to keep traffic moving on the motorway should be better equipped than the police service's law enforcement vehicles. We heard that there are problems with IT interoperability between databases and between forces. We welcome the progress that has been made in this area and expect further resources to be found to invest in roads policing technology, to ensure that wherever possible access to data is instantaneous. This is the responsibility of both individual Chief Constables and central government. (Paragraph 93)

The influence of new technologies on deployment decisions

17.  Technological developments alone should not be allowed to direct or unduly influence the deployment of police resources. Automatic Number Plate Recognition is an example of a technological development which has had a significant impact on policing. It very efficiently enables the police to identify vehicles wanted for past offences and registration-type offences when they are on the road. We welcome its introduction and wish to see all forces making full use of the technology. Nevertheless, it is vital that the police teams visible on the roads fulfil the whole range of road policing tasks and enforce all types of traffic offence. (Paragraph 97)

Introducing new technologies into enforcement

18.  When new technologies and new systems of enforcement are introduced there must be adequate attention given to how best to contribute to the public and media debate. The Government should properly convey reasons for the changes. Lessons about the importance of public communication must be learned from the safety camera hypothecation scheme. Both the Department for Transport and the Home Office must do more to publicly support new enforcement initiatives and ensure their success. (Paragraph 100)

Type approval

19.  Difficulty achieving full market development of new technologies, and Home Office type approval, can lead to delay in anticipated improvements in roads policing. Ideally any necessary legislation and type approval of new technologies will come about at the same time—this requires proper planning and investment in research, design and development. The Home Office should examine whether the type approval process can be improved and accelerated without jeopardizing the outcomes. The process should encourage, not hinder, manufacturers to innovate. (Paragraph 105)

Safety Camera Partnerships

20.  It was disappointing that whilst acknowledging the essential role of safety cameras, the Association of Chief Police Officers' Head of Road Policing did not wish to see more cameras in use. We find such a contradictory approach bewildering. Well-placed cameras bring tremendous safety benefits at excellent cost-benefit ratios. A more cost effective measure for reducing speeds and casualties has yet to be introduced. An increase in safety camera coverage would be supported by evidence, as well as public opinion. There are many more sites which meet the existing camera guidelines and more funding should be made available to enable better coverage. (Paragraph 118)

21.  The police and road safety campaigners want flexibility on where and how to deploy cameras. It is a disgrace that the existing Department for Transport guidelines require potentially preventable deaths and injuries to have occurred in a location before cameras can be installed. The relationship between speed and collisions is so well proven that this requirement is unnecessary and even irresponsible. Evidence of excessive speed is evidence of danger and there is no need to wait for somebody to die in order to take action intended to slow vehicles. We recommend that the casualty criteria be lifted. Future guidance from the Department should emphasise the importance of local decisions about camera siting: there should be more flexibility for rural roads with casualty problems which do not meet speed criteria and urban roads which cannot fulfil the visibility requirements. (Paragraph 119)

22.  Even driving a few miles per hour over the speed limit makes a big difference in a collision with a pedestrian or cyclist: the chances of survival halve between collisions at 30 miles per hour and 35 miles per hour. With more accurate camera equipment and with accurate digital speedometers installed in vehicles, it would be possible to lower the enforcement threshold speeds. The Government and the police should work towards harmonizing threshold speeds and reducing these to nearer the actual speed limit in order to improve the effectiveness of speed cameras, and to better protect pedestrians and cyclists. (Paragraph 121)

23.  The change in funding arrangements for the National Safety Camera Partnerships ends the ring-fencing for camera operations. The police fear that under the new system their involvement could be sidelined and their access to funding might be curtailed. Transport for London in particular has concerns that it will be difficult to increase funds to expand camera enforcement even where cameras are the most effective solution. Camera Partnerships have provided valuable lessons in partnership working; the connections that have been made must not be lost. We will keep the new arrangements under review and hope to see that cameras continue to be an important part of casualty reduction for as long as they remain one of the most effective interventions. (Paragraph 128)

Future technologies for speed limit enforcement

24.  Speed cameras have achieved significant reductions in collisions and casualties. There remains potential to increase this impact not only through the rules and arrangements which govern their use, but also through ongoing technological developments. Time-distance cameras improve effectiveness: the Department for Transport, Home Office and police forces should take the steps necessary to encourage their use and make sure sufficient resources are invested. The possibility of using time-distance cameras to enforce 20 miles per hour limits on residential roads should be explored by the Department. We welcome Transport for London's efforts to secure Home Office type approval for such equipment in order to protect vulnerable road users through enforcement of appropriate speed limits. Development work on Intelligent Speed Adaptation should be continued. We would welcome the early introduction of in-vehicle enforcement technology. The potential of Intelligent Road Studs should also be further explored. (Paragraph 135)

Increasing prevalence of drink-driving and drug-driving

25.  More than one in six people killed in road crashes are the victim of drivers over the permitted alcohol limit. This is far too many deaths and indicates a level of non-compliance with traffic law which is appallingly high. The number of drink-drive casualties has increased in recent years, as the number of roads policing officers has fallen. Police enforcement has a crucial role to play. As ACPO noted, the operation does not need to be complex: it is a case of doing much more of the same. We need a uniformly stringent approach to drink-driving enforcement. There should be a greater effort to understand and address the reasons for an increasing number of people's preparedness to drink-drive. (Paragraph 144)

26.  The incidence of drug-driving is also on the rise, although the actual scale of the problem is still unknown. There is a widely-held belief among offenders that drug-driving is not enforced by the police. The drug-driving enforcement campaign has not yet really begun in earnest. Given the estimated scale of the problem, there must be much greater enforcement and a publicity campaign directed at drug-driving. The Department for Transport must do more to educate the public of the dangers of both drug-driving and drink-driving. (Paragraph 145)

Use of technology in tackling drink-driving and drug-driving

27.  It is disappointing that the police, Home Office and Department for Transport have not found funding to secure the type approval of roadside evidential breath testing equipment. It is unacceptable that last year the Government announced £15 million of extra funding for the continuing development of Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology, and yet it has not made £60,000 available to ensure type approval of roadside evidential breath testing equipment, which could be instrumental in reducing the 3,000-plus people killed and seriously injured through alcohol-related road crashes each year. The Government must work earnestly with manufacturers to resolve barriers to production of the equipment as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 148)

28.  As technology improves the government should review the guidelines governing its use to ensure they continue to strike the correct balance between gathering sufficient evidence to prosecute and making effective use of police time. We recommend the government reviews the merits of offering a blood and urine testing option to drivers with between 40 and 50 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. Improvements in technological accuracy may have made such an option superfluous. (Paragraph 149)

29.  The scale of the drink-drive problem indicates the need for all efforts to be made to promote compliance. Where technology can help increase compliance its use should be encouraged. 'Alcolocks' should be fitted to offenders' vehicles. In addition, the Department should evaluate the impact of eventually fitting alcolocks in all new vehicles, and should the results prove to be beneficial for road safety, the Government should push for alcolock fitment to be incorporated into the European Whole Vehicle Type Approval standards. The alcolock should be calibrated to the Member State's national alcohol limit. (Paragraph 151)

Drug screening equipment

30.  We welcome the development work which is underway into technologies that will effectively and accurately detect whether drivers have used drugs. Drug-driving already poses a very significant danger on our roads: studies indicate that 18% of collisions involve a driver in whom illicit drugs are present. We are therefore concerned that, given the extent of the problem, far too little attention has been dedicated to such research and development. It is a complex task but the Home Office must prioritise the development of drug screening equipment and police officers must have access to this technology at the earliest possible opportunity. Until this technology is available, the deterrent effect of enforcement will be minimal. (Paragraph 156)

31.  There should be effective co-operation between roads police officers and forensic scientists to ensure that prosecutions for drug-driving offences are pursued wherever possible. We are concerned that in the context of drug-driving enforcement, the results of police and medical tests frequently do not match. This problem should be explored and both groups should be better trained in the procedures. (Paragraph 158)

Field Impairment Test

32.  We are pleased to see that in the absence of drug screening devices, the police have developed the Field Impairment Test to assist officers to accurately detect drug drivers. The early results are promising. It is therefore disappointing that not all forces have adopted the system. The Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers should work together to ensure that the Field Impairment Test procedure is harmonised and fully applied across police forces. (Paragraph 161)

Legislation and enforcement of drink-driving and drug-driving

33.  the continuing requirement to prove impairment is an obstacle to the effective policing of the drug-driving problem. We recommend that the Government work in consultation with police services and the appropriate medical experts to identify suitable thresholds and tests for the presence of illegal drugs in a driver's body. At the same time, the Government should bring forward the legislation necessary to enable drivers to be prosecuted on the basis of drug-testing rather than impairment-testing. (Paragraph 168)

34.  We believe that impairment is still the appropriate test in relation to drivers who are affected by licensed medicines. (Paragraph 169)

Mobile telephone use

35.  Driving while using a mobile telephone is extremely impairing—drivers holding a mobile telephone conversation are four times more likely to be involved in a crash. Anyone who observes traffic for even a short period of time is likely to see this law being flouted with impunity—it is disappointing that there have not been more high profile enforcement operations to support the change in legislation. Failure to enforce the new law risks bringing traffic law enforcement into disrepute. Given the significantly increased risk of collision, the police should undertake regular and highly visible enforcement action, supported by targeted advertising campaigns. (Paragraph 175)

36.  Collision data should include details of whether a driver was using a mobile telephone at the time of the incident, and certainly in all fatal crashes the collision investigator should check telephone records to identify whether the driver was using a telephone at the time of the crash. The fact that it is currently difficult (or impossible) to detect mobile telephone use through technology should not mean that this law is neglected. In addition, the Home Office should support research into new technologies which detect telephone use or prevent people from driving while using them. (Paragraph 176)


37.  We welcome the research being undertaken by the Home Office Scientific Development Branch into a device which would help police officers reliably detect impairment in drivers. If such a device is shown to be effective, the Home Office should ensure that police officers have access to this equipment as soon as possible, and that they are adequately resourced and trained to make best use of it. (Paragraph 179)

Haulage vehicles

38.  Commercial vehicle and driver compliance checks should be properly resourced. The Department for Transport and Vehicle and Operator Services Agency should work together to enforce vehicle safety standards on all vehicles, including foreign-registered Heavy Goods Vehicles. We welcome measures in the Road Safety Bill that toughen the regime for foreign-registered vehicles. (Paragraph 183)


39.  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. (Paragraph 184)

40.  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. (Paragraph 185)

41.  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. (Paragraph 186)

42.  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. (Paragraph 186)

43.  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. (Paragraph 187)

44.  The efficiencies which technology can bring should not be seen as a straightforward opportunity to cut the number of roads police officers. (Paragraph 188)

45.  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. (Paragraph 188)

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