Press Release

CTC: Get tough on dodgy drivers and lorry operators

police car and cyclist
The decline in roads policing may explain why pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists have fared worst on our roads in recent years
CTC has urged MPs to support increased resources for roads policing to improve safety for all road users. CTC’s Policy Director Roger Geffen told the Commons Transport Select Committee that cycle use has grown slowly but steadily since the late 1990s, but the risk per mile of a serious cycling injury started to increase from 2008.

Since then, it has gone up by around 15%, whereas the risk for car occupants has fallen by around 28%. Geffen suspected that the decline in roads policing over this time may explain why pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists have fared worst on our roads in recent years. These groups now account for 60% of serious and fatal road casualties, up from an average of 52% in 2005-9.

Giving evidence to the Committee’s inquiry on road traffic law enforcement on Monday 23 November, Geffen said: “We know that visible roads policing is a highly effective way to improve road safety. Yet the number of roads police officers in England and Wales has fallen by 37% since 2003, even though total police force numbers have hardly changed. This needs reversing to help people of all ages to take up cycling without fear.”

Geffen also highlighted the importance of enabling the Traffic Commissioners to play their part in tackling rogue lorry firms. He cited two cases of cyclists’ deaths where the lorry operator was clearly committing serious breaches of safety rules.

Visible roads policing is a highly effective way to improve road safety. Yet the number of roads police officers in England and Wales has fallen by 37% since 2003, even though total police force numbers have hardly changed. This needs reversing."

Roger Geffen, CTC Policy Director

In July 2013, Toby Wallace and Andrew McMenigall were killed on the A30 in Cornwall, soon after starting a Land’s End to John O’Groats charity bike ride. The driver, Robert Palmer, was exhausted after working two consecutive eight-hour shifts, as he was both repairing and driving lorries for operator Frys Logistics. Twelve days later, London cyclist Alan Neve was killed by Barry Meyer, an uninsured and unlicensed lorry driver with five previous driving bans who was nonetheless working for lorry operator AJ Drummond.

Yet in both cases the Traffic Commissioners were only notified after evidence came out at the drivers’ trials. Alan John Drummond and his Transport Manager Colin Drummond eventually had their licences revoked earlier this year, while the decision to revoke Frys Transport Manager Mark Fry's licence was only taken on Monday 16 November, more than two years after Wallace and McMenigall’s deaths. Fry had himself been convicted in the meantime for committing tachograph offences.

Roger Geffen said: “Having uncovered widespread breaches of lorry safety rules, Transport for London has now set up a London Freight Enforcement Partnership to improve collaboration between the police and other enforcement bodies. Governments now need to put in place similar arrangements for the rest of the UK. The Traffic Commissioners in particular need far better support and resourcing, so that they can properly fulfil their crucial role in keeping dangerous operators off our roads”.

Roads policing has suffered disproportionate cuts compared with overall police numbers in recent years, with traffic police numbers falling by 37% in the last 10 years from almost 7,000 uniformed officers to just 4,356 in 2014. Total policing numbers have only fallen by 3.5% in the same period.

CTC’s written evidence to the inquiry also notes a sharp decline in the number of offending drivers who receive driving bans. The number of driving disqualifications has reduced by 47% since 2007.

Not only do the courts seem reluctant to impose bans but the police are increasingly preferring to send drivers on speed awareness or retraining courses. These earn money for the police, whereas prosecutions are costly, yet there is little evidence that they improve the safety awareness of offending drivers. A total of 72% of drivers dealt with for ‘careless driving’ offences are diverted to a course and therefore avoid penalty points.

The full details of CTC’s written evidence to the Commons inquiry on road traffic law enforcement can be found on the CTC website.

Notes to Editors: 

1. Over the past 15 years, cycle mileage in Britain has grown steadily by about 30% to around 3.2bn miles annually, up from 2.5bn miles in the late 1990s. This increase was accompanied by a decrease in the risk of injury per mile cycled, and in most years by a reduction in the actual injury numbers. However, since 2008 the risk of a serious cycling injury per mile cycled has increased by around 15%, whereas the risk for car occupants has fallen by around 28%.

2. Since London’s HGV Task Force began vehicle checks in 2013, it has targeted and stopped more than 6,030 vehicles, leading to 87 vehicle seizures, 4,500 prosecutions being progressed through the Criminal Justice System and 2,134 fixed penalty notices issued. Offences uncovered have included unlicensed driving, lack of insurance, unsafe tyres, lack of cycle safeguards on vehicles and failures to record drivers’ hours.

3. 25% of all road casualties in the UK involve a driver who is at work.

4. CTC, the UK’s largest cycling charity, inspires and helps people to cycle and keep cycling, whatever kind of cycling they do or would like to do. Over a century’s experience tells us that cycling is more than useful transport – it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of freedom and creates a better environment for everyone. www.ctc.org.uk

CTC Press Office
Email: publicity@ctc.org.uk
Telephone: 0844-736-8453 or 0778-632-0713

Tony Upfold
 
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