Last week (31st March), Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) candidates had the chance to explain how they would reduce road danger in Merseyside, if elected.
PCC candidates include Liberal Democrat Kris Brown, and Emily Spurrell from Labour; both are local councillors in Liverpool. Emily had also been the Merseyside Deputy PCC. Bob Teesdale, the Conservative PCC candidate, is an ex-Merseyside Police officer, with 30 years’ experience, including at the sharp end of road safety and responding to fatal road traffic collisions.
Key questions from the Commit to Act on Road Danger PCC manifesto had been sent the candidates. This is the manifesto that is supported by Action Vision Zero, British Cycling, Cycling UK, Living Streets, Road Danger Reduction Forum, RoadPeace, Sustrans and 20’s Plenty for Us. Here we highlight some of the candidates’ answers to our five key calls. But do watch the video for the full responses.
- ROAD DANGER REDUCTION
Road danger reduction as a priority
All candidates said that road safety would be a priority for them, if elected. Emily has already included road safety as one of four priorities in her manifesto. Kris too had included it as a priority, stating he would
- Create a zero tolerance approach to traffic crime by creating a new, joint partnership approach to stamp out illegal pavement parking and speeding in local communities.
Noting how protection of life is the main role of police, Bob agreed it should be a priority. His local crime survey asks about key neighbourhood concerns with road safety and speeding one of the four specified options (along with anti-social behaviour, knife crime, and burglary and robbery).
They all also admitted to not knowing enough about what was being done by the police to tackle road traffic crime. This is a reminder of the lack of priority given to roads policing by the justice system. In her introduction, Emily acknowledged that road traffic crime was not always treated as crime.
Careless/dangerous driving as a police priority
Informed by AVZ’s analysis of Merseyside’s roads policing which showed very low detection rates for careless driving, Emily agreed this was an area that needed to be “grabbed hold of”. Her manifesto includes the pledge:
- To support enforcement for dangerous driving and regional awareness campaigns to ensure that anyone who drives through our area understands that dangerous or careless driving will not be tolerated.
Bob Teesdale agreed careless driving should be a priority but warned of the limited enforcement possible with the low number of roads policing officers. He also highlighted the role of the magistrates and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in determining what qualifies as dangerous and careless driving. He noted how roads policing brought the police into conflict with the public and how this affected the principle of policing with the consent of the community.
Road traffic crime treated as crime
Candidates were asked to ensure that road traffic crime was treated as other crime and included in crime statistics, surveys (i.e. confidence and level of satisfaction surveys) and support programmes. Emily said this would happen if she was elected and that it was odd this had not already happened. Bob too thought this information was already available.
Increased speed enforcement
All candidates supported increased enforcement and the introduction of Community Speed Watch. Bob saw it as a good example of bringing the community and police together. Its low cost was another key benefit for him. He was also keen to get the special constabulary involved.
Rod King, 20’s Plenty for Us founder, reminded the candidates that roads did not need to be designed for low speed before they justified speed enforcement. It should be more than enough that roads were being used by pedestrians and cyclists and that this was more important than road widths or the presence of humps. Rod stressed that what the police do most effectively is enforce speed limits and if they weren’t doing this, then in his view they weren’t doing their job.
Emily and Kris supported 20mph limits whilst Bob argued they should only be supported if they could be enforced. Rod clarified that the evidence showed that signed-only 20mph roads were safer than 30mph roads.
- TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
All appreciated the importance of transparency and that this was key to communicating priorities and constraints to councillors and communities. Emily promised a programme of scrutiny and that data should be shared with the public, if the Merseyside Police had it.
Roads policing strategy
Emily agreed that a proper road safety strategy was needed that covered enforcement as well as education and that a roads policing strategy was needed and that this would help ensure that all partners were going in the same direction.
Kris supported the call for a strategy but also wanted to go beyond a Merseyside strategy with a local approach involving forums with councillors, local police teams and communities. Bob said he would consult with both communities and outside experts.
- WORKING WITH THE COMMUNITY
All supported closer engagement with the community, including having campaigners on scrutiny panels. They should work with Pauline Fielding MBE and RoadPeace North West local group coordinator, and Chair of the PCC candidate meeting. Pauline is a member of Merseyside Independent Advisory Group (MIAG).
All appreciated the need for and benefit of third-party reporting and welcomed the introduction of Operation Snap. They described it as a “no brainer”. Bob noted how Operation Snap greatly reduced the number of pieces of evidence in getting a case to the magistrates court.
- POST CRASH RESPONSE
Candidates were asked if they would call for a review of collisions between cyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers where there was no prosecution. This is intended to ensure lack of prosecution is not due to lack of investigation.
Bob was concerned that we were calling for reviews of individual cases. We clarified that this was not the case. Emily stated that her scrutiny programme would include reviewing police actions and the charging decisions. This should be compared with other police services but she noted the review might well find that the collisions were not chargeable.
We gave credit to Merseyside Police for publishing their collision investigation policy. This includes information on how investigations are quality assured.
Crash victim support
Emily expects to review how victim services are commissioned. She was aware that there had previously been funding provided at the national level and she wanted that to be reinstated. Kris called for dedicated caseworkers (at present, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) funds homicide caseworkers for families bereaved by murder or manslaughter but not causing death by driving), and also for road crime victims to be represented on victim working groups. Bob was surprised that victims of road crime were not already being helped.
It was good to see the support for our manifesto calls from the candidates, including around careless driving, speed enforcement, transparency, community engagement and Operation Snap.
We look forward to working with the successful candidate on implementing their proposals. This will include clarifying the difference between road safety and road danger reduction. For example, the Merseyside Road Safety Partnership focuses on those road user groups most likely to be killed or seriously injured—pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and older people—rather than motor vehicle drivers—the most common road user in a collision. We want PCCs and police to focus on tackling danger at source which benefits all road users.