Police and Crime Commissioner survey support for traffic law enforcement—Have your say

Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) across England and Wales want to hear from you. Their new survey asks about  traffic law enforcement, and the perceived need and support for increasing Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) with some of the revenue raised reinvested into road safety.

Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly has the lead on road safety for PCCs. She expects the public response to support greater enforcement, with the survey findings to be included in the PCC response to DfT’s consultation on Roads Policing.

Action Vision Zero (AVZ) welcomes this survey and the chance to argue for more investment in traffic law enforcement. Safe behaviours and enforcement are a key call for AVZ. Whilst increased road segregation is coming, there will always be large sections of the road network that are shared. As our society walks and cycles more, even more enforcement will be needed to reduce the risk posed to these vulnerable road users.

Do you feel safe?

The survey asks if people feel safe on the roads where they live. It is good to see this being asked. Too often it is only the quantity of death and injury that seems to matter. Perception of safety is important if more are to walk and cycle. People feeling safe is one of the 10 indicators for Healthy Streets, an approach introduced and adopted in London.

How often do you witness traffic offences?

Do you see traffic violations on a daily basis, more or less frequently?

Whilst the Department for Transport (DfT) conducts national surveys on such offences as speeding, mobile phone use and seat belt use, and government crime surveys ask about drink and drug driving offending, there are no estimates of the frequency of careless or dangerous driving.

It has been several years since Rachel Aldred reported the findings of her Near Miss project where cyclists reported their experience of non-injury incidents. The average reported was almost two near misses an hour with one in seven “very scary”. Note—the PCC survey is asking people about traffic offences in general, even if they were not threatened by the offence.

Want more enforcement?

The survey asks about demand for more traffic law enforcement. Given the decrease in enforcement by police officers (typically termed “officer detected sanctions”) over the past decade, this is likely to be high. In their recent report, Roads Policing—Not Optional, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Police, Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS) revealed that annual police expenditure on roads policing in England and Wales had dropped by 34% between 2012/13 and 2019/20, which equates to a fall of approximately £120 million.

More enforcement is needed. Road deaths have not decreased since 2010 and vehicle speed compliance remains a problem. DfT  has just published its annual estimates of motor vehicle speeds. This shows when given the chance, over half of drivers (54%) will exceed the 30mph speed limit. This is not decreasing.

Should FPNs (Fixed Penalty Notices) be increased?

The survey asks if other motoring FPNs (now £100), including that for speeding, should be made the same as the FPN for mobile phone use whilst driving (£200).  

Our current system is neither fair nor logical. Penalties should increase with repeat offenders. But they don’t at present.

First time offenders (apart from extreme cases) are offered a chance to attend a National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS). This course will cost them around £100 with the online courses (due to coronavirus) costing slightly less. So, no real increase in penalties at present for repeat offenders.

Drivers can offend five times – four FPNs after an NDORS course – before the penalty really increases with the threat of disqualification. That is not good enough. Penalties should increase sooner and sharper in order to deter re-offending.

Extending the £200 FPN to the other motoring offences would raise almost another £100 million. This could greatly help return the level of spending on roads policing to earlier levels and pay for other road safety measures.

Should some of the revenue raised be reinvested into road safety, including more enforcement?

At present, none of the money raised by FPNs goes back to the police. It all goes to the Treasury. This allows traffic law enforcement to be painted simply as a revenue raiser, undermining its perceived legitimacy.   

Enforcement has a cost and who better to pay, than the offenders.

Have your say—PCCs and DfT need to hear from you

This survey is short and easy to complete.  Please help the PCCs convey the strong community support for increased traffic law enforcement and safer roads with the revenue coming from traffic offenders.

Walking and cycling needs to increase, so should the state’s ability to protect these vulnerable road users from harm. This was true even before the coronavirus epidemic but has become even more urgent since.

Survey closes 30th September and can be found here.

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