Number of full time traffic police falls one third in 5 years despite rise in the number of offences to be penalised.
The number of full time traffic police has fallen one-third in England and Wales in the last 5 years, Auto Express research shows. In 2010, there were 5,327 compared to 3,742 in 2015. West Midlands force has seen the most dramatic fall; from 351 to 115.
Furthermore, City of London Police no longer operates a separate traffic unit. Part of the explanation is the that some forces have combined units following budget cuts.
West Yorkshire traffic police numbers have fallen 75%, for example, yet its road, gun and dog units have merged into multi-purpose departments with a wide remit.
Fall not necessarily detrimental
A National Police Chiefs Council spokesperson claimed such initiatives are not necessarily detrimental to safety.
He said: “Individual police forces decide themselves how best to allocate resources and keep their communities safe. Some may decide to reduce the numbers of specialist traffic officers - but this does not necessarily mean that their roads are not adequately policed.
They can deploy a range of resources including specialist modern technology; and use public information reports and guidance about road offenders”.
He continued: “All police officers are available to help those who are traffic policing specialists, when needed. Every Chief Constable takes good care to ensure that road users in their area are kept as safe as possible.”
Despite the fall in the number of full time traffic police, new on-the-spot powers to punish motoring offences were recently introduced. Drivers now receive a fixed penalty notice for middle lane hogging and tailgating, for example.
At the time – in 2013 – Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond said: “Careless drivers are a menace and their negligence puts innocent people’s lives at risk. That is why we are making it easier for the police to tackle problem drivers by allowing them to immediately issue a fixed penalty notice, rather than needing to take every offender to court”.
Chief Constable Suzette Davenport – The Association of Chief Police Officers lead on road policing – argued at the time: “The new penalties are absolutely necessary to deal with drivers who are putting people’s lives at risk and police will not hesitate to enforce them. These measures should also act as a reminder to careless drivers that their behaviour will not be tolerated.”
She added: “The vast majority of drivers are law abiding, but some are still not getting the message. We said we would get tougher on those who make our roads dangerous and that is exactly what we have done.”
In addition, the Government introduced the 'Smoke-Free Driving' Law in October 2015.
At the time, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: “Three million children are exposed to secondhand smoke in cars, putting their health at risk.... the regulations are an important step in protecting children from the harms of secondhand smoke.”