AVZ Blog: Roads Policing in Merseyside – an in-depth look

This Wednesday evening (31st March), Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) candidates in Merseyside will clarify how they would reduce danger and traffic harm if elected. RoadPeace North West is hosting an online meeting where the candidates will be asked about their commitment and proposals to make roads safer, especially for those who are most vulnerable.

Candidates are being asked about their support for the Commit to act on road danger manifesto, supported by Action Vision Zero (AVZ), British Cycling, Cycling UK, Living Streets, Road Danger Reduction Forum, RoadPeace, Sustrans and 20’s Plenty for Us. This manifesto has five main calls:

  1. Make road danger reduction a priority
  2. Tackle speeding—the greatest threat
  3. Be transparent and accountable
  4. Work with your community
  5. Improve the post-crash response.

Much will be expected of these candidates.

The outgoing PCC, Jane Kennedy, was one of the few PCCs to include road safety/roads policing as a specific priority in her police and crime plan. Following strong support from the public, road safety was added as a priority in 2017.

In most police and crime plans (77%), road safety was included under wider objectives, most often tackling harm or neighbourhood policing, but only seven of the 43 had it as a specific priority. No other PCC in the North West had it as a specific priority.

The current  Merseyside Police and Crime Plan (2017-21) states:

By 2021 we will:

• Have stronger, more effective working relationships with road safety partners.

• Influence the use of engineering to drive down the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads.

• Use enforcement strategically to change attitudes, encouraging people to drive in a safer way.

• Work with partners to improve education and awareness surrounding road safety issues.

As a specific priority, this meant more reporting to and closer monitoring by the Police and Crime Panel. The Merseyside PCC website signposts readers to the latest report on the road safety priority.

The Home Office reported Merseyside as having 104 roads policing officers in 2020, this is four more than in 2019. Roads policing officers in Merseyside are needed as they only account for 2.9% of Merseyside Police, under the national average of 3.6%. Whereas the Met and Sussex Police have introduced dedicated road crime teams, Merseyside Police have not.

Merseyside Police are known to be proactive on impaired driving. AVZ’s What my police did in 2019 shows that whilst Merseyside accounted for 2.3% of the total Killed and Seriously injured (KSI) in England and Wales, it was responsible for 8.1% of total drug driving prosecutions. 

Harm reduction and officer detected offences

Our Commit to act on road danger manifesto prioritises tackling those offences posing harm to others, especially those more vulnerable. AVZ has focused on

  • Speeding
  • careless driving
  • mobile phone use, and
  • uninsured vehicles.

So AVZ has compared these offences detected by officers (not cameras) to try and identify police priorities in practice. We used the most recent data published by the Home Office for 2019. This is pre-covid and the government’s recent investment in active travel. This analysis does also not mean that anyone is doing enough. It is only a comparison of what police officers were doing some two years ago.

So how did Merseyside do?

Speeding

Merseyside performs very well with officer detected speed limit offences. Merseyside police officers detected 3,396 speeding offences, 50.2 per 10 KSI. This was more than twice the national average (21.9) and made them the 5th ranked police service for officer detected speed limit sanctions.     

The Home Office does not report speed limit sanctions by the individual speed limits. But an earlier AVZ FOI revealed that in 2018, over half of the speed limit offences detected by Merseyside Police officers were in 20mph and 30mph limits, with 555 on 20mph roads and 3885 on 30mph roads out of a total of 7072.

Careless driving

For careless driving offences, it was a different story. With 349 officer detected sanctions, this equated to 5.2 per 10 KSI, below the national average (6.1). Merseyside Police would have to have done twice again as much—1,042 more careless driving sanctions to have met the average of the top five police services.

Another way of looking at this is by the number of roads policing officers. This shows very little enforcement effort with police officers detecting fewer than one careless driving sanction a quarter.

Mobile phone use

For (hand held) mobile phone use offences, Merseyside scored high again, with 1,306 officer detected sanctions, 19.3 per 10 KSI. This is over twice the national average (9) and made them the 3rd highest police service for mobile phone use sanctions detected by police officers and on a KSI basis.

Uninsured vehicles

For uninsured offences, there were 1,894 officer detected sanctions, 28 per 10 KSI. This is above the national average (24.2). Merseyside Police would have had to detect another 1,588 uninsured vehicles to have met the average of the top five police services.

AVZ conclusion

So compared to other areas…

  • Merseyside PCC made road safety a priority but this did not extend to prioritising careless driving. Third party reporting should be promoted and facilitated as it has been recognised as a game changer in tackling bad driving.
  • Speeding has been taken seriously in Merseyside, including by police officers. But this still amounts to relatively few speeding drivers being detected.
  • The PCC office was transparent in what was being done to deliver her road safety priority but no roads policing strategy could be found.
  • The PCC and police have worked closer with road victim charities than local active travel campaigners. The police host and attend the bi-monthly RoadPeace North West group meeting but do not have any community campaigners on their road safety related working groups. Nor does there appear to be any surveys as to how safe people walking and cycling feel.
  • The Merseyside Police have a published road traffic collisions policy but do not publish the number of injury collisions which result in a prosecution nor have they reviewed the reasons for No Further Action. 
  • Credit to the Merseyside Road Safety Partnership for funding support programmes for crash victims. But the level of satisfaction surveys used with other victims of crime have yet to be extended to crash victims.

Jane Kennedy has left Merseyside in a good place and the new PCC should build on this as there is more to be done. The DfT has reported that in the year up to June 2020, Merseyside had 10 road deaths and 245 serious injuries reported. Whilst this is much lower than pre covid, it is still too high and even worse, likely to increase with increased activity.

Merseyside needs the next police and crime plan to prioritise tackling the harm posed to those more vulnerable. This will only happen if the community demands it. So, sign up to the online meeting and you too can have your say.

When – Wednesday, 31 March 2021, 6 pm

Register here

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