Transport Committee Press Notice


Traffic Policing and Technology:

getting the balance right

Roads policing is an essential element of road casualty reduction.  In 2004, traffic collisions killed 3,221 people and seriously injured a further 31,130.   In recent years, the availability of technology, the legal framework and the operational capacity of traffic police have led to a rapid pace of change within road traffic law enforcement.

Traffic policing was in decline for several years. Between 1999 to 2004 operational traffic officer numbers fell by 21%.  However, figures for 2003 indicate numbers have started to rise again.   In addition, there has been some restructuring of traffic policing and increasing use of 'non-sworn' police staff.

More intensive use has been made of technologies such as speed and red light cameras, breathalysers, and Automatic Number Plate Recognition. This provides a changing context for roads policing, offering new potential and new challenges. There are technologies under development which could further increase compliance with traffic law and reduce death and injury on our roads. Among others these are: intelligent speed adaptation, impairment detectors and 'alcolocks'.

The road casualty reduction target is part of the Department for Transport's Public Service Agreement: yet roads police are within the remit of the Home Office. This split could account for the failure to adequately include traffic policing objectives in the National Policing Plans. One year ago, the Department for Transport published a joint Roads Policing Strategy with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office. This road policing strategy set a focus on denying criminals use of the road; reducing road casualties; tackling terrorism; reducing antisocial use of roads; and providing reassurance to the public.

In light of these developments, the Transport Committee has decided to inquire into the effectiveness of traffic policing. In particular, the Committee wishes to examine:

•Are traffic officers adequately resourced, trained and supported? 

•What impact has the joint Roads Policing Strategy had on the work of traffic officers? How has it influenced the priority given to roads policing, and the resources invested?

•Have police forces across the UK got the balance right between technology-led enforcement and officers carrying out road policing duties?  What evidence is there that the changing balance between traffic officers and technology has influenced casualty reduction rates?

•How effective and how efficient is roads policing in reducing the number of road casualties? Are police forces concentrating traffic enforcement on the right areas and activities to achieve maximum casualty reduction?  To what extent do approaches to traffic enforcement and casualty reduction differ between forces across the country?

•How have technological developments affected both the detection and enforcement of drivers impaired through alcohol, drugs and fatigue?  Is the best use being made of these technologies?  What legislative, strategic and operational changes would improve the effectiveness of these technologies? 

•How will the new funding arrangement announced by the Secretary of State affect the work of the road safety camera partnerships?   What lessons can be learned from the experience of speed limit enforcement using camera technology?

•How effective are multi-agency approaches to safety issues?  What steps are required to improve partnership work between the police, Department for Transport, local authorities and other agencies?

Interested parties are invited to submit written memoranda on the above questions and associated issues to the committee before 15 February 2006.

Memoranda should be a maximum of 6 A4 pages in length and should include a summary and a conclusion .  Please submit a single hard copy of your memorandum by post to the above address, and an electronic version, preferably a Word document, by e-mail to or alternatively on a disk with the hard copy.  If you are unable to submit an electronic version of your memorandum, please take particular care to ensure that your submission is legible. All submissions should be final and complete; the Committee does not accept draft memoranda or subsequent amendments. Memoranda submitted to the Committee should be kept confidential until published by the Committee.

Press Notice 22/2005-06   25 January 2006

Dr John Patterson, Clerk of the Committee

  i DfT Transport Statistics Great Britain 2005

 ii Hansard 10 January 2005 : Column 364W

 iii Department for Transport (National) Press Notice, Thursday 15 December 2005, "Greater Funding and Flexibility for Road Safety as Report Shows Cameras Working".