Reducing road danger – What do your police do?

Ever wonder what your police do to reduce the danger posed by road users? Either the actual number of offences they prosecute, what they prioritise or how they compare to other police services?

Action Vision Zero has produced an overview for each police service in England and Wales. This is based on the available data from four sources, including:

  • Population (ONS)
  • Reported road casualties (DfT)[i]
  • Police (Home Office)
  • Out of court sanctions and breath test statistics (Home Office)
  • Court prosecutions (MoJ).

Each summary includes the basic data for the police service area you live in as well as the relative percentage of England and Wales. This shows where the police service is performing higher or lower compared to their share of those who are Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI).

For instance, when compared to England and Wales:

  • Cheshire accounts for 1.5% of KSIs but 4.7% of out of court sanctions for careless driving, whereas Cambridgeshire reported 1.6% KSIs but only 0.7% of out of court sanctions for careless driving.
  • Avon and Somerset represents 1.9% of KSIs and 4.2% of out of court camera detected speed limit sanctions but only 0.9% of out of court officer detected speed limit sanctions.
  • Lincolnshire has 2.5% KSIs but only 0.9% of dangerous driving court prosecutions.
  • Merseyside accounts for 2.3% KSIs but 5.3% of out of court officer detected speed limit sanctions and 8.1% of drug driving court prosecutions.

But the data, even the higher-than-expected percentages, does not mean that any police service, or England and Wales overall, is doing enough. The decrease in the amount of funding for roads policing and the long term decline in the number of roads policing officers are well known,  although last year’s increase in officers was welcome news.  There are no known indicators of what good practice looks like with traffic law enforcement, except for breath-tests.

The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) recommends one in five drivers be breath-tested each year. There are over 32 million licensed drivers in England alone, according to the National Travel Survey. This would mean over 6 million breath tests being conducted in England, whereas the Home Office has reported just over 302,000 breath tests being conducted in 2019 for England and Wales, less than half what it was a decade previously, and less than 5% that recommended by ETSC. The total breath tests reported by the Home Office excludes that from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) as they were unable to report the number of breath tests conducted in 2018 or 2019.

The data used in our analysis is for 2019, the most recent year available. But it is not that recent and should be seen as a pre-COVID baseline. And the published data has reported weaknesses. The Home Office states six police services, including three in England (Derbyshire, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire) and three in Wales (Gwent, North Wales, and South Wales) do not report all offences. Dyfed-Powys is the only Welsh police service providing complete offence data to the Home Office.

Readers should remember that prosecuting offenders is not all that police do. Data is not published, at least not systematically, on the verbal or written cautions given in close pass operations, Community SpeedWatch or with third party reporting (Operation Snap). Data on Community Road Watch has begun to be published on annual basis in London. In 2018/19, the MPS sent over 25,000 letters to drivers caught exceeding the 20mph speed limit.

There is also educational activity, including that with lorry danger, and of course, the collision investigation related work.

Our analysis offers one way of assessing police activity. Action Vision Zero is calling for best practice indicators to be developed for roads policing. This is a key call of our joint Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) election manifesto, developed with RoadPeace and 20’s Plenty for Us, and is supported by British Cycling, Cycling UK, Living Streets, Road Danger Reduction Forum and Sustrans.

These overviews are provided to facilitate constructive dialogue between campaigners, police and PCC candidates.  PCCs represent the community and the PCC elections in May offer a chance to clarify and reaffirm commitments to reducing road danger. See here for the overview of your police service. And contact Action Vision Zero (amy@actionvisionzero.org) for more information about our campaign. We have analysed police and crime plans but we are keen to find out more about the practical experience of local campaigners. Help us build a better knowledge base of what PCCs and police are doing to reduce the risk posed to you and your loved ones on the road.   


[i] Adjusted KSI figures have been used. These are produced by DfT to accommodate under-recording by police.

One Reply to “Reducing road danger – What do your police do?”

  1. Compulsory speed limiters for all except emergency vehicles linked to GPS and without override are long overdue. Statistically overspeed appears to be a prime factor in up to 300 deaths annually.

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