Driving offences decrease may be due to police cuts, say MPs
The number of motoring offences over the past decade has halved over a 10-year-period, according to recent figures.
However, MPs have claimed that a reduction in the number of specialist road police officers may be responsible for the ‘improvement’ - and not better standards of driving.
There has been a reduction in the number of specialised road policing officers over the past decade, from 7,104 in 2005 to 4,356 in 2014.
The total offences committed on roads in England and Wales saw a reduction from 4.3 million in 2004 to 1.6 million in 2013.
But according to the Commons Transport Select Committee, the number of convictions for “causing death” on the road has “remained steady” from 303 in 2004 to 311 in 2014.
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This is described as “significant” in the report, because it suggests the reduction in overall offences does not represent how many road crimes are “actually being committed”.
MPs have recommended that the effectiveness of speed awareness courses in reducing re-offending on their own should be examined.
Committee chairwoman Louise Ellman said: “The fall in overall road offences does not reflect an improvement in driving.
“The Department for Transport says education, engineering and enforcement are key to road safety. One cannot exist without the other.
“The committee recommends research to determine whether the use of diversionary education courses for poor driving has produced the required deterrent effect.”
She added: “If enforcement of road traffic laws is to be effective, the decline in specialist roads policing officers must be halted.”
Department for Transport figures for 2014 show that road fatalities grew by 4% from the previous year to 1,775 and the number of people seriously injured increased by 5% to 22,807.
Neil Greig of the Institute of Advanced Motorists said, while most law-abiding drivers would welcome the committee’s report, it was “unlikely to be possible” for police forces to increase their number of specialist traffic officers due to budget restraints.
He added: “Targeted enforcement, better intelligence and more efficient use of police resources could be just as effective. Every police officer should be on the look-out for road traffic offenders.”
The RAC’s Pete Williams said: “The sharp decline in roads policing officers appears to be having the very unwelcome effect of leading to fewer people being caught for illegal activity.
“It stands to reason that if a law exists, it needs to be enforced effectively.”