Memorandum by ACPO (RTS 137)|
1.1 The Association of Police Officers of
England, Wales and Northern Ireland is a voluntary membership
organisation, and a company limited by guarantee whose objectives
is to promote the effectiveness, efficiency and professional interests
of the police service. It has no statutory basis and is maintained
through contributions from police authorities and the Home Office.
1.2 The Committee had posed two questions
in advance. (See Ev 300)
1.3 The UK has just about the safest roads
in Europe (our record is equalled only by the Swedes). Despite
this we are still killing about 3,500 people on the roads each
year, and seriously injuring 40,0001. This death toll is about
four times the number of homicide victims, and is therefore in
our opinion one of the major issues facing the British police
service at the beginning of the twenty first century.
1.4 The UK has significantly reduced the
number of people killed and seriously injured (KSI) in road collisions
since 1987 when the previous target was set. This has occurred
by a combination of measures, specifically including increased
seat belt usage, tackling drink driving and improved vehicle design.
Excessive speed is now the biggest single contributor to casualties
on our roads2.
1.5 The government has now set a target
in its Road Safety Strategy3 of reducing KSIs by 40 per cent by
2010. ACPO believes that this reduction is both appropriate and
achievable, and we fully support the government in its determination
to reduce death and injury on our roads.
1.6 From a policing point of view the major
contributor to attaining the 2001 KSI target will be a significant
reduction in inappropriate or illegal vehicle speeds. There is
known to be an established relationship between reducing speed
and reducing collisions2, 4, and ACPO is therefore confident that
the improved policing tactics associated with the Safety Camera
Scheme (see below) will make a very big impact on the KSI figures.
2. A STRATEGIC
2.1 ACPO has had a National Road Policing
Strategy (NRPS) since 1996. Its strategic aim is to "contribute
to the reduction of death and injury, damage or fear on our roads".
Speeding is highlighted as one of three operational priorities.
(See Ev 293)
2.2 Subsequent to the publication of the
government's integrated transport policy "A New Deal for
Transport: Better for Everyone" (July 1998) and Her Majesty's
Inspectorate of Constabulary's (HMIC) report "Roads Policing
and Traffic" (HMIC 1998) ACPO has decided to review the NRPS.
This work is not yet complete (it will be considered by ACPO Cabinet
in February 2002) but the major changes (a recognition that roads
policing needs to engage criminals and contribute to more effective
use of road space) will add to, not dilute or downgrade, the existing
focus on inappropriate or illegal speeding.
2.3 ACPO has also produced, under the auspices
of the NRPS, a new set of Speed Enforcement Guidelines (see Annex
II) which were published in 2000. These are publicly available,
and set out clearly the principles upon which speed enforcement
is based including a chart showing nationally agreed minimum trigger
levels for enforcement action.
2.4 The HMIC report can perhaps be neatly
summarised with a quote from the preface, that it was "disappointing
that many forces have not seen road policing as a priority".
The report itself contains much in a similar vein, with particular
concern expressed over what was seen as a "blanket disregard
for the ACPO prosecution policy for speed offences" which
it was said, might if unchecked lead to the discrediting of the
criminal justice process.
2.5 ACPO in 2002 concedes that the HMICs
concern over the lack of priority being given by the service to
road policing in the late 1990s was to some extent justified.
It is no longer. Road policing in general, and casualty reduction
in particular, is now seen by the service as core policing. The
consistency issue has been addressed and exciting, nationally
coordinated major projects are in handthe early results
of which are very impressive.
2.6 The first of these projects is the National
Safety Camera Scheme which is explained in more detail in the
next section. It is the bold intention of the Project Board, with
the active and enthusiastic participation of ACPO and the police
service, to render speeding socially unacceptable within a decade.
The Safety Camera Scheme represents, in the view of ACPO, partnership
working at its very bestreal joint endeavours between government,
police, local authorities and other public bodies.
2.7 ACPO is very concerned however about
mixed messages emanating from government. While the position of
the DTLR (and technically the government as a whole) in relation
to road safety is clearly set out in the government's strategy
and associated documents the position of the Home Office is more
ambiguous. ACPO has consistently requested for many years for
a clear unequivocal statement from successive Home Secretaries
that they regard road policing as core police work of the highest
importance. No such clear commitment has been forthcoming.
2.8 ACPO notes with some concern that the
recent White Paper on Police Reform5 makes no mention of road
policing. In our view this is unsatisfactory. The White Paper
proposes the introduction of a National Policing Plan, which in
broad terms ACPO welcomes. We strongly recommend that this Plan,
if introduced, includes a clear statement of the importance placed
by the government on road policing in general and casualty reduction
2.9 A worrying recent development has been
a proposal to remove from the police service the only road policing
related performance indicator. The police service has a surfeit
of indicators. Rationalising the list is a sensible part of police
reform. Proposing to abolish Best Value Indicator 132 (number
of road collisions involving death or injury per 1000 population)
is not. The old saw that "what gets measured is what gets
done" has more than a grain of truth. Although this proposal
seems to have been withdrawn (further proposals are awaited) it
should never have been made in the first place. The government
cannot expect ACPO and the police service to give casualty reduction
the priority that it deserves if it cannot itself deliver joined
3. A CULTURAL
3.1 At present speeding is endemic on our
roads, with well over 65 per cent of car drivers exceeding the
30 mph limit on urban roads6. Speeding is still socially acceptable
in a way that drink driving used to be a generation ago, but now
3.2 It is the intention of ACPO to make
speeding socially unacceptable within a decade, using broadly
the same methodology (in partnership with the government and others)
that has been more or less successfully used to alter public attitude
to drinking and driving. The major vehicle for achieving this
shift will be the revolutionary Safety Camera Scheme. (See Ev
3.3 Breaking the speed limit is a criminal
offence in the UK, not a civil one. However, ACPO seeks not to
penalise people for breaking the law, but to secure voluntary
compliance with the law. The means by which driver behaviour can
be changed are now well established8in essence education
and explanation must be backed up with sanctions that exceed the
perceived rewards of law breaking, with a very high perceived
risk of detection.
3.4 In essence the government has agreed,
for the first time ever, to allow the fine revenue to be netted
off (a form of hypothecation) to pay for improved education and
enforcement. The Scheme has been successfully piloted and was
approved for national roll out, which is proceeding, in August
2001. The law has been changed by the Vehicle (Crimes) Act 2001
to enable this.
3.5 Police enforcement action has increased
markedly in the recent past, as Fig 1 below demonstrates. In 2000
police in England and Wales dealt with 1.2 million speeding offences
(22 per cent of all road enforcement activity). This represents
a rise of 18 per cent over 1999; over 60 per cent of offences
are now dealt with by Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN)9.
3.6 In the seven areas piloting netting
off in England and Wales there was an increase of 147 per cent
in FPNs for speeding in year one. Further very large increases
should be expected as the netting off process spreads throughout
the UK in the next couple of years. The ability to generate this
sort of increase is brought about by the effective use of new
technology, in particular cameras. There is no doubt that the
future of speed enforcement lies with cameras, first introduced
to the UK in 1991. They are an extremely effective tool; as a
Home Office cost benefit analysis10 in 1996 demonstratedcameras
paid for themselves five times over in the first year of operation
3.7 There are only two major threats to
the continuing success of the Safety Camera Scheme:
(i) that the Scheme will be so successful
in changing driver behaviour that fine revenue will be insufficient
to pay for the costs. There is already some evidence of exactly
this happening. This is of course a successour objective
is compliance, not revenue generationbut the consequences
need careful monitoring.
(ii) that the public will not continue to
support the scheme. Without a large measure of public support
the scheme is untenable.
3.8 There is a wealth of information available
to show that the public do in fact support the use of safety cameras
in this way11, 12. In 1999 DETR research13 showed that the public
was generally very supportive of safety camera enforcement. The
Safety Camera Scheme carried out further research to check whether
public opinion had changed. Standard questions were used to ensure
comparability. In outline over 80 per cent of drivers believe
that cameras encourage drivers to keep to the limits, and 70 per
cent agree that cameras reduce collisions. (See Ev 299)
Direct Line Insurance carried out independent
research at the same time for their own purposes11. Their results
too confirm significant public support.
3.9 National media coverage has been very
supportive (with some notable exceptions!). At local level it
has been overwhelmingly so. The Safety Camera Scheme has been
monitoring this. 90 per cent of local press reports (measured
in column inches) were positive, 6 per cent neutral and only 4
per cent negative. There is now no doubt that the public support
3.10 ACPO is concerned that some in government
seem more worried by the ill-informed and erroneous position taken
by a very small but vociferous segment of the national press than
by public opinion or even by facts. The Safety Camera Scheme depends
also upon the continuing and publicly demonstrated support of
3.11 The benefits are enormous. At the end
of year one, in eight areas in the UK involved in the pilot, there
were 35 per cent fewer collisions and 47 per cent fewer KSIs at
camera sites. Overall people killed and injured were down 18 per
cent, with collisions down 6 per cent. The pilot areas are showing
a KSI reduction twice that for the rest of the UK, and it can
be estimated that, in these eight areas alone, 109 people have
been saved from death or serious injury in the first year. The
cost of the Scheme was £10 million (all met by offenders
via fine revenue); using DTLR methodology the savings to society
amount to £27 million12.
3.12 This Scheme is a conspicuous success.
It is a feather in the cap of both government and ACPO. Provided
that it continues to be successful (and there is every sign that
it will) ACPO will continue to give it full support, and will
look for DTLR and the Home Office to do the same.
4. SPEED LIMITS
4.1 There are two linked but separate subjects
In ACPO's opinion both topics need government
action. ACPO is concerned that the situation is becoming confused,
especially where signing is concerned. Clarity is needed.
4.2 Turning first to the limits themselves,
ACPO is of course aware that the rationale for speed limits is
not one of road safety alone. Speed limits already have traffic
management, environmental and societal justifications and consequences.
Police enforcement of such limits is already a reality, but one
of which ACPO believes the general public is largely unaware.
Demand for such limits is bound to grow as the pressure on our
over-crowded road network increases. The Safety Camera Scheme
has been sold entirely and rightly on its casualty reduction benefitsbut
if speed limits applied for other than safety grounds are to be
enforced using identical means (and they are) then the public
will need to know and understand. In ACPO's opinion this concept
which may be summed up as "environmental enforcement"
has the clear potential to significantly embarrass the government
and the police service if not addressed.
4.3 There is now overwhelming evidence that
lower speeds result in fewer collisions of lesser severity2,4.
In almost all situations the faster the average traffic speed
the more collisions there are. Recent research2 shows the potential
for reducing collisions through speed management; in broad terms
each 1 mph reduction in average road speed is expected to cut
collisions by 5 per cent. Even on motorway type roads (inherently
safer because of consistent and higher design and maintenance
standards) research has shown that higher limits lead to higher
4.4 Put simply it is not possible to make
out any case at all for higher general speed limits on any category
of road, on safety grounds. ACPO is therefore firmly opposed to
any proposal to increase any national speed limit. Such a proposal,
given the overwhelming nature of the scientific evidence, would
fly in the face of the government's safety policy, and of common
4.5 It is however, possible to make a safety
case for lower national limits, particularly for instance in relation
to single carriageway rural roads and ACPO is watching developments
in Norfolk, Suffolk and elsewhere with interest.
4.6 ACPO is in favour therefore of retaining
the existing hierarchy of speed limits at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 and
70 mph. They are extremely well known, have a degree of logic
and appear fully accepted by the public. We fully support the
recent introduction of the 20 mph limit, and have retested all
our equipment to ensure that we can enforce it.
4.7 While there is a national case for lower
limits in some situations (eg in the vicinity of schools and hospitals,
or on rural roads), this is an extremely complicated subject,
and ACPO fully understands the difficulty in producing a nationally
consistent framework that would lead with this issue.
4.8 There is no doubt that the public fail
to see the logic of many individual speed limits. ACPO shares
this concern. Limits are not consistently and logically applied
across the country and this does lead to enforcement difficulty.
The best example of resolution of this issue of which ACPO is
aware comes from the State of Victoria in Australia. The State
Government, prior to starting its safety camera scheme, caused
every single speed limit in the entire state to be reviewed. Some
were subsequently lowered, and some raised. This did much to secure
and enhance public confidence in the scheme.
4.9 In ACPO's opinion such a review would
not be possible at national level in the UKbut it could
be carried out at the level of each Highway Authority as part
of the Local Transport Plans required under s109 of the Transport
Act 2000. ACPO would fully support such a set of reviews.
4.10 Turning now to the second issue, ACPO
is very concerned that the current means of identifying road speed
limits is now beginning to fall into disrepute. In particular
the traditional means of identifying a 30 mph limit (street lighting)
may no longer be sufficient; there are now significant calls for
repeater signs, road surface roundels, and other means of reminding
drivers of limits. In our opinion the whole way in which the relevant
limit is communicated to the driver needs full review if public
confidence in speed limits is to be maintainedespecially
since what we are actually seeking as a society is not ever more
heavy enforcement, but greater voluntary compliance.
4.11 ACPO wishes to see therefore a hierarchy
of roads, with clear unambiguous and modernised criteria for the
appropriate speed limit. Any limit needs to be very evident to
the driver if public confidence is to be maintained and voluntary
compliance with the relevant limit attained. Speed limits need
to be easy to obey.
4.12 We are also concerned that there continue
to be on sale in Europe vehicles designed to be capable of travelling
at more than twice the legal limit in the UK. Of all the current
members of the EU only Germany still retains unlimited roadsand
these now amount to less than half of Germany's total Autobahn
network. There is no good reason for this very inadequate situation
4.13 For the present speed management will
have to rely upon education, road engineering and enforcement.
The more distant future holds out the prospect of external speed
control, for which the technology now exists. ACPO strongly recommends
that the government continues to research the practical implications
of such systems, and aims for their eventual introduction to our
4.14 ACPO very strongly supports the recommendations
set out in chapter 4 of the government's speed policy review6,
but we are concerned that the Action Plan proposed before the
last election has not yet materialised. The need was perceived
as urgent when the Review was published in March 2000. In our
opinion it has not become less so.
5.1 There is research evidence available15
to show that if driver behaviour is to be changed then the consequences
of speeding must exceed the perceived rewards for breaking the
law. In practical terms this means that there must be an effective
sanction with a perceived high risk of detection.
5.2 In the case of speeding the sanction
is two part at present: a fine and a risk of disqualification.
In future it is hoped that public disapproval of the offender
will play an important role as well. As far as we can tell the
level of fine is more or less irrelevant, but the threat of disqualification
is a real incentive. Disqualification becomes of even greater
importance after taking account of evidence that the worst offenders
have a disproportionate effect on casualties2,8.
5.3 Emerging technologies (in particular
Automatic Number Plate Recognition or ANPR) coupled with improved
intelligence handling by the police now raise the prospect of
the police being able to enforce disqualified driving very strongly
5.4 For these reasons ACPO strongly supports
Proposal 18 set out in the government's consultation paper on
road traffic penalties16. This would increase the likelihood of
disqualification from driving for the worst offenders (who can
be demonstrated to have an increased risk of collisions)2,8. However
we are concerned to note that these proposals do not seem to have
made any progress in the Home Office since they were published
in December 2000, over 12 months ago.
6.1 ACPO strongly supports the government's
road safety strategy and the casualty reduction targets therein.
6.2 ACPO intends, in partnership with the
government, to make speeding socially unacceptable within a decade.
6.3 ACPO strongly recommends and would warmly
welcome, a recognition in the proposed National Policing Plan
that road policing is core police work.
6.4 ACPO would very much regret, as a retrograde
step, any proposal to remove Best Value Indicator 132 from the
6.5 ACPO recommends that the concept of
environmental enforcement of speed limits receives serious consideration.
6.6 ACPO is strongly opposed on safety grounds
to any proposal to raise any category of national speed limit.
6.7 ACPO would however welcome a general
review of individual limits to achieve greater logic and consistency.
6.8 ACPO urges the government to progress
the conclusions of its Speed Policy Review, and to produce its
recommended Action Plan.
6.9 ACPO recommends that the government
continues longer term research into the practicalities of implementing
external speed control.
6.10 ACPO urges the government to progress
without further delay the conclusions of its review of road traffic
penalties, and in particular proposal 18.
1. Tomorrow's RoadsSafer for Everyone.
The Government's road safety strategy and casualty
reduction targets for 2010 DETR March 2000, (para 1.1).
2. Taylor MC, Lynam DA and Baruyn A (2000).
The effects of drivers' speeds on the frequency of road accidents.
Report 421 TRL Crowthorne.
3. Tomorrow's RoadsSafer for Everyone,
4. Finch DJ, Kompfner P, Lockwood C R and
Maycock G (1994). Speed, speed limits and accidents. TRL Project
Report 58. TRL, Crowthorne.
5. "Policing a new Century: Blueprint
for Reform" CM5326 Home Office 2001.
6. New Directions in Speed Managementa
Review of Policy DETR March 2000 (p17).
7. Transport Statistics Bulletin Vehicle
Speeds in Great Britain 2000 DTLR 2001.
8. Stradling SG (1999). Changing driver
attitude and behaviour Procs. Speed Review Seminar DETR London
9. Motoring Offences and Breath Test Statistics.
Home Office Statistical Bulletin 24/01 Home Office London December
10. Hooke A, Knox J and Portas D (1996)
Cost Benefit Analysis of Traffic Light and Speed Cameras. Police
Research Series Paper 20, Home Office, Police Research Group.
11. MORI poll, Direct Line Insurance 2001.
12. Cost Recovery System for Traffic Safety
Cameras First Year Report DTLR August 2001.
13. Road Safety Research Report No 11: The
effects of speed cameras: how drivers respond DETR London 1999.
14. Farmer CM, Retting RA, Lund AR 1999.
Changes in motor vehicle occupant fatalities after repeal of the
national maximum speed limit. Accident analysis and prevention
31 (1999) 537-543.
15. Brunel University Criminologist for
16. Road Traffic Penaltiesa consultation
paper Home office, DETR, LCD London December 2000.