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PACTS report: Roads policing and its implications for road safety

The government should be guided by the science and prioritise roads policing to save lives and to combat wider criminality. A report released today [28 May 2020] by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) criticises successive years of cutbacks in roads policing despite the clear evidence that it is effective and that road users want to see more police on the roads. It also shows how drivers who drive dangerously are often engaged in other crimes.

The report is published ahead of a cross-Whitehall review of roads policing, with an HMICFRS inspection report and public consultation anticipated shortly.


PACTS calls on the government to specify roads policing within its pledge to fund 20,000 additional police officers. Police numbers were cut by 22% in 2010-14 and by a further 18% in 2015-19. There is widespread belief that the Government’s failure to reduce road deaths over the past decade is at least partly due to a downgrading of roads policing. PACTS points out that the number of road deaths (around 1,800 a year) is more than twice the deaths from homicide and terrorism combined.


The report highlights international research evidence of the effectiveness of roads policing in increasing compliance with traffic laws and reducing road casualties, cutting some collision types by around a quarter. A detailed analysis by PACTS of the “fatal 4” offences (speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, driving under the influence of drink or drugs, and using a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel) since 2010 shows that where enforcement has been increased, compliance has improved and casualties have dropped; but where cutbacks have affected enforcement, there has been little or no improvement.


PACTS calls on the UK Government and, where powers are devolved, the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to:

  • Make roads policing a national priority in the Strategic Policing Requirement

  • Reverse the cuts and expand the number of specialist officers

  • Take a more proactive approach to use of technology and information sharing.

Police forces are recommended to:

  • Work more closely with other forces and agencies

  • Engage the support of the public through communications and use of dashcams

  • Collaborate on research and improve monitoring and reporting.

PACTS Executive Director David Davies said: “The coronavirus lockdown has highlighted the importance of roads policing, with traffic speeds increasing on empty roads and worrying incidences of extreme speeding. This could have serious consequences, particularly for people following government advice to walk and cycle.


“The number of road deaths is more than twice the deaths from homicide and terrorism combined and breaches of road traffic laws are the biggest single cause of road deaths. This needs to be recognised in the government’s priorities and resources for policing.”


He continued: “The public support more enforcement. Roads policing provides double value: tackling those who drive dangerously often disrupts wider criminality. For example, Essex police found that almost half the drug-drive offenders had previous arrest records for serious crimes such as burglary, drug dealing and violent crime.


“PACTS is grateful to GEM Motoring Assist Road Safety Charity for supporting the project, with additional support from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, Jenoptik and AlcoSense.”

Responsibility for the views expressed in the report lies with PACTS.

Roads Policing Reportpdf

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