Last week Laura Laker rightly raised concerns about West Midlands Police’s commitment to protecting people cycling. She highlighted the lack of reporting of police activity on Twitter. As she acknowledged, this is not the whole picture. But it is often the only picture available with data on roads policing activity rarely published.
Concerns about a lack of transparency featured strongly in our joint PCC Election Manifesto, Commit to Act on Road Danger. This manifesto is intended to help ensure PCCs do more to reduce the risk encountered on our roads, especially that posed to people walking and cycling. Coordinated by Action Vision Zero (AVZ), RoadPeace and 20’s Plenty for Us, the manifesto has been supported by British Cycling, Cycling UK, Living Streets, Road Danger Reduction Forum, and Sustrans.
Later in April there’s a husting with West Midlands PCC candidates (Friday 30th April at 12noon to 2pm), courtesy of the Lunar Society. This should cover roads policing and we would like to provide evidence to help underpin this debate.
Let’s start by putting the resources of West Midlands police into context. With 165 roads policing officers, this is 2.5% of West Midlands Police; this is lower than the national average where 3.4% of all officers are linked to roads policing work. And although the number of West Midlands roads policing officers was up four from the previous year, they are down 40% from five years ago.
What about the reported road casualty toll? The Department for Transport (DfT) reported 46 people killed in crashes in the West Midlands in 2019, almost one road death a week. Another 934 were reported as being seriously injured, close to three per day. Overall some 20 people a day are reported injured on roads in West Midlands, with most escaping with slight injuries.
AVZ has produced traffic law enforcement summaries for each police service. See What My Police Did in 2019 for a summary of motoring offences prosecuted out of court and at court, as well as breath tests (over 25 per day) in the West Midlands.
Comparison of police services with officer detected priority offences
And how does West Midlands Police compare to other police services?
AVZ compared police officer efforts on what we consider to be the highest harm offences for people walking and cycling, i.e. speeding, careless driving, mobile phone use and uninsured vehicles. Using Home Office data, we analysed officer detected offences, i.e. not camera detected offences, as we wanted to focus on what police were doing on the street. And we analysed the stats on a Killed/Seriously Injured (KSI) basis for a fair comparison.
So how did West Midlands fare?
Not well. With officer detected offences, as reported by the Home Office, West Midlands was below average in all four priority offences (speeding, careless driving, mobile phone and uninsured vehicles), when compared on a per-10 KSI basis. This was for 2019, using the most recent Home Office data.
West Midlands Police officers reported detecting 1,684 speed limit offences in 2019. This was 17.2 per 10 KSIs, and below the national average of 21.9.
And whilst much more speed enforcement is undertaken by safety cameras, this is true for most police services.
West Midlands Police officers detected 425 careless driving offences in 2019. With 4.3 officer detected careless driving offences per 10 KSIs, West Midlands was below the national average of 6.1. Essex reported the highest (38.2), almost nine times that of West Midlands.
With 165 roads policing officers and 425 careless driving offences detected by police officers, this means, on average, a West Midlands roads policing officer reported a careless driving offence every four months.
On the plus side, it is great that West Midlands accepts third party submissions. The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner recently commended a person for submitting 425 pieces of video footage in 18 months. Whilst not all will result in a sanction or even a warning, this does contribute to the detection of careless and dangerous driving.
Our analysis did not compare dangerous driving. The Home Office does not publish data on dangerous driving arrests so it has not been included in this analysis. But credit is due to West Midlands Police for being proactive on Dangerous Driving as they (including the CPS) account for over 10% of all Dangerous Driving prosecutions in England and Wales (2019).
Mobile phone use
West Midlands Police officers detected 795 drivers using-hand held mobile phones in 2019.
This was a rate of 7.2 per 10 KSIs this is close to but still below the national average of 9.0. The highest performing police services were Cheshire and Staffordshire, both reporting 21.8 officer detected mobile phone offences per 10 KSIs, almost three times that of the West Midlands.
West Midlands police officers detected 2,032 uninsured vehicles in 2019. This was a rate of 20.7 per 10 KSIs, below the national average of 24.2 and a third that of the highest performing police service of Staffordshire (65.9).
We wish we had more up to date data. But the data on 2020 will not be published by the Home Office until October 2021.
See the AVZ website for information about our PCC election campaign and for data on other police services. Contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information and if you have other suggestions as to how to compare roads policing.
Demand from communities resulted in road safety being a priority in three quarters of police and crime plans. And it will only be because of continued community demand that road danger is included in the next set of police and crime plans. Thanks for all you can do to help achieve this.