Traffic policing cuts 'risk lawlessness on roads'

Two police motorbike riders

Roads in England and Wales are in danger of becoming increasingly "lawless" because of cuts to traffic policing, the charity RoadPeace says.

It also says there is a "significant shift" away from prosecuting motorists for driving offences to sending them on awareness courses instead.

In 2015, 1.4 million motorists paid for such courses - treble the number five years earlier.

The National Police Chiefs Council says road policing methods have improved.

It also says it is working with the Department of Transport to assess the effectiveness of driver training courses.

The number of people killed or seriously injured on roads in England and Wales has been falling for decades, but RoadPeace says the decline slowed after 2010 when cuts were made to traffic policing.

The charity, which campaigns on behalf of road crash victims, says the number of people killed and seriously injured dropped by 16% between 2005-09, but only by 1% over the period 2010-15 in England and Wales.

Meanwhile, the number of officers fell by 28% in five years, outside of London where the numbers fell by 11% from 2010-14, according to Home Office figures.

Image caption Rebecca McManus was killed by a car that hit the bus stop she was waiting at

Rebecca McManus was killed in 2014 after a crash involving two men racing each other at more than 100mph.

The 21-year-old was waiting at a bus stop on her way to a hen party when she was hit by one of the cars.

Her father Gerard said more drivers felt that they would not be stopped by police for motoring offences.

"There's a danger that it's becoming culturally acceptable to drive dangerously," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

'Losing your licence'

RoadPeace says this has put the government's "proud" record on road safety in danger.

It also claims that allowing motorists who break the law to go on courses may not be as effective a deterrent as docking points.

Amy Aeron-Thomas, of the charity, told the Today programme that traffic police had been subject to "disproportionate cuts" compared with the rest of policing.

And she said that while awareness courses work for those attending them, "they don't impose penalty points, and the research has shown that it's the penalty points - the fear of losing your licence - that has the greatest deterrence effect".

"Roads policing isn't considered a prime priority for police. Police are not evaluated for how well they investigate collisions, not even fatal collisions.

"We're not increasing [accidents] dramatically, but they've stopped decreasing since 2010, and that's a cause for concern," she added.

Figures released in April by RoadPeace showed a 23% drop in prosecutions of drivers who cause fatal road crashes in England and Wales in the five years to 2015.

However, between 2014 and 2015 there was an increase in prosecutions, from 402 to 414, and convictions, from 312 to 321.

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