Road crime is not treated as real crime.
Protection of life is supposed to be the main aim of policing, if not government in general. But when we are on the road – when we are most vulnerable to injury and death – our safety does not seem to be a major concern for the police.
Traffic law enforcement (TLE) suffers from a:
- Lack of priority
- Lack of evaluation
- Lack of transparency
TLE also suffers from a weak base with road traffic legislation outdated and fragmented. For our discussion on road traffic legislation/driving offences, see Appropriate Prosecution in our Campaigning for Justice section.
Lack of priority
Driving offences are not a priority for the police. Police priorities are set by the Home Office and Police and Crime Commissioners. Home Office prioritises offences that are classified as notifiable crime—that includes causing death and serious injury by driving offences, but not the high volume driving offences of speeding, drink-driving, mobile phone use, etc.
Next time you read about crime going up or down, remember that they are referring to notifiable offences– not those basic driving offences that endanger your life.
Lack of evaluation
The police are evaluated on their effectiveness at dealing with notifiable offences—not driving offences. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is responsible for evaluating the 43 police services in England and Wales. But their evaluation does not cover roads policing.
Lack of transparency
Police can sanction drivers/riders with court prosecutions, Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) or through the National Driver Offender Retraining System (NDORS). The MoJ publishes the court statistics and the Home Office FPNs –both by police area. But NDORS is only reported at the national level by the NDORS.
It is not possible to know how many drivers were prosecuted for careless driving, using a mobile phone whilst driving, or detected speeding or running a red light.
What RoadPeace wants
We want more police and crime plans to include road traffic crime.
- Traffic law enforcement to be a core function for police
- Driving offences that can cause death or serious injury to be included as notifiable crime
- HMIC to include roads policing—both traffic law enforcement and collision investigation—in their national police evaluations and inspections
- Consistent and open reporting of sanctions given for driving offences
- Roads policing to focus on reducing danger to other road users, especially those more vulnerable
What RoadPeace is doing to help?
As justice watchdog, we analyse the data and make police sanctions more transparent.
In 2017, we published Lawless Roads. Bringing together the data on all the different types of sanctions for motoring offences – prosecutions, FPNs and NDORS. It analysed changes in these over the period 2010-15 and documented the:
- disproportionate decline in the numbers of traffic officers;
- growth in NDORS courses (which carry no penalty points) and the decline of FPNs (that do);
- rising dominance of sanctions for speeding, increasingly based on camera evidence;
- decline in the number of sanctions for nearly all other safety critical offences dependent on officer led enforcement.
We also analyse the statistics and produce briefings on key road crimes and the way they are sanctioned. Our briefings include key calls on how to reduce the harm posed by these crimes.
Drink driving remains a problem and recent national surveys suggest it is getting worse. And the police do too little. Best practice would see 18 times as many drivers breath tested each year. Even those in casualty collisions are tested only half the time. RoadPeace wants to see drink driving made a notifiable offence by the Home Office and prioritised by the police.
Our justice system is too lax on speeding. Lawbreaking is tolerated too much, penalties are too light (particularly for “excessive speeding”) and repeat offenders allowed to get off too easily.
Use of hand held mobile phone
Research shows that their use for calls, texting or social media slows reaction times more than being just above the drink-drive limit. And their use by drivers is epidemic. Despite recent changes in penalties, much more needs to be done on detection, charging, training, use of technology and police procedures.
Careless and Dangerous driving
We have highlighted the overlap in these two charges (See our graphic You say Careless, I say Dangerous) and also the inconsistent use of them. Some police services are much more likely to prosecute for Dangerous Driving than others, including neighbouring police services.
We also lobby for traffic law enforcement to be given higher priority—both by police and the Home Office and within road safety programmes. This includes in responses to key consultations such as:
- HMIC’s work programme
- DfT’s 2016 Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy
- the APPCG ‘s inquiry on Justice and Cyclists
And we are campaigning for more police and crime plans to include road traffic crime. Given the pressure is not coming from the top, it is essential that communities are able to get their local police to tackle road danger.