Traffic police cuts slammed as 12% cop cull sees drink and drug drivers ‘get away with it’

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 09:38
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CUTS: Traffic police becoming rarer

Deadly, drunk and drugged drivers are now more likely to escape punishment after figures showed traffic police numbers have fallen 12% since 2008.

Statistics released by road safety charity Brake and highlight that some Great British police forces have suffered 30-40% cuts over the past half-decade.

Officer numbers have been cut by 31% in Wales and 13% in England, with a slight increase of 4% in Scotland.

Bedfordshire have suffered the largest cuts (44%), with South Wales and Dyfed Powys closely following (40%).

Brake are warning that the cuts are leaving some parts of the country dangerously short on vital frontline roads policing.

This, they claim, could put the public at risk from dangerous drink-drivers, speeders and mobile phone users, undermining a soon-to-be-introduced drug driving law.

The law will include limits for drugs in the bloodstream, similar to the drink drive limit, and provision for the police to use roadside drug screening devices.

Julie Townsend, Deputy Chief Executive of Brake, said: “It is desperately worrying such large cuts continue to be made to traffic policing, just as progress is being made to improve the law on deadly drug driving.

“Roads police officers do a vital job enforcing important safety laws and protecting the public – their work is proven to save lives and prevent injuries and suffering.

“Cutting traffic police is a false economy, because the crashes and casualties they help to prevent inflict such devastation and are a huge drain on public services.

“These cuts also undermine important progress being made by government to tackle drug driving – because as much as we need a new drug driving law and screening devices, we also need the officers out there to enforce it.

“We urge the government to make roads policing a national policing priority, to make sure we have a strong deterrent against the risk-taking on roads that can easily cost lives.”

International evidence shows enforcement is a key part of keeping roads safe, providing a deterrent against risky driving and banishing dangerous offenders.

Drug drivers state that a lack of enforcement is a reason they continue to offend, knowing they are unlikely to be caught.

According to Brake research, a third of drivers (31%) think there is a less than one in ten chance of being caught if you drink and drive.

Senior police officers have expressed their frustration at the lack of priority given to roads policing, stating their ‘second tier’ status leads to inability to properly enforce driving laws.

A spokesperson added: “It’s imperative that the police have the resources to protect all road users from the drivers whose criminal behaviour puts us at unnecessary risk.

“We urge the government to heed the warning of our report and stem the cuts before we witness a hike in needless incidents; incidents that, without road policing, are waiting to happen.”

The Association of British Drivers (ABD) said they shared Brake’s concern, but said the ‘emotive rhetoric so beloved by Brake’ is part of the problem.

An ADB spokesperson said: “The reduction in traffic police has arisen for two reasons.

“Firstly, some government ‘expert’ who foolishly pronounced that traffic police were ‘elite’, and should be cut.

“And secondly, the money-grabbing mentality that has replaced properly trained police officers capable of exercising discretion, with automated mugging machines that in the words of one police officer ‘have made the police the enemy of the motorist’.

“Road safety will not regain the respect of drivers until we scrap the obsession with petty automated enforcement and put properly trained police officers capable of exercising discretion, and educating drivers, back on our roads.”

Meanwhile, Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at the Institute for Advanced Motorists (IAM), added: “The IAM shares Brake’s concerns.

“Road safety does not appear to be a high priority for new police commissioners, despite high public concern.

“What is needed urgently is joined-up government thinking and leadership so that the benefits to the NHS can be shared among those who work on the front line of road safety.”

Image courtesy of West Midlands Police, with thanks.