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Decrease in Numbers of UK Traffic Police Causes Safety Concerns

By raccars Published

There always seems to be one around at the most inconvenient moments, but in fact the UK has 12% fewer traffic police officers than it did five years ago. Brake, the motoring safety organisation, submitted a Freedom of Information request revealing the fall, which the charity fears could have a detrimental impact upon driving law enforcement and road safety in general.

Wales is 31% down on traffic police versus 13% in England, while Scotland bucked the trend with a 4% increase in traffic police. The biggest reductions were seen in South Wales, which has lost 42% of its traffic police over the last five years, followed by Dyfed Powys, with 39%. West Mercia and Hampshire also saw cuts of more than a third, while Dorset had reductions of 32% and South Yorkshire of almost 30%.

While Brake expressed disappointment at the figures, the Association of Chief Police Officers has defended its position, pointing out that the statistics provided fail to take into account the work done by other police officers in traffic control, including operational or automatic number plate recognition officers. It suggests Brake's interpretation of the statistics is misleading and does not reveal the complete picture of the state of traffic policing in the UK.

While admitting that forces are already at full capacity, the ACPO claims dedicated traffic officers would be used to enforce the upcoming new laws relating to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and that neighbouring areas would share resources to ensure maximum coverage.

The new legislation focuses on drivers with illegal drugs in their bloodstream and providing roadside screening devices for police to determine drug impairment. Adequate traffic policing is considered extremely important as a deterrent to drugged drivers, with research showing that offenders believe they are unlikely to be caught due to lack of enforcement. Surveys have shown that one third of drivers consider themselves less than 10% likely to be caught drink driving, thanks to a lack of traffic police.

The statistics released by Brake were the result of Freedom of Information requests submitted to UK forces in 2011. Forty six complete responses were received out of the 51 applicable forces, with four incomplete responses and one force declining to comply. The data was based upon forces providing the number of traffic police officers employed in March each year, from 2008-2012.

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