Why road safety matters so much to local people – 20 February 2020

By John Smith Independent Candidate For Police And Crime Commissiomer For Avon And Somerset

I attended the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims event in Bath last November organised by charity Roadpeace – it is an extremely poignant service which includes a walk through the city to lay roses at the memorial in St James’ Gardens. As Roadpeace say “Road deaths are not normal deaths – they are sudden, violent and unnatural and families rarely have the chance to say goodbye.” Roadpeace work with victims and families including supporting them through the criminal justice system but also recognise the impact on those dealing with the aftermath of crashes including emergency service workers.

Five people are killed on Britain’s roads every day and 60 people are seriously injured. When Sue Mountstevens was first elected as Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012 road safety was not one of her top priorities – but it was clear from surveys carried out by her team and from feedback at public meetings that road safety was a top priority for local residents. As a result, Sue amended her Police and Crime Plan and by 2014, Road Safety had been included as a priority for the police and partners to address. Since 2014 the number of people killed and seriously injured on Avon and Somerset’s roads has fallen by 20% – one of the best records in the country. However, still nearly 1 person a week is killed on local roads and the number killed and seriously injured equates to 1 per day – a lot of these crashes are preventable – there remains much more to do.

The fatal 4 issues linked to collisions are:

  • drink and drug driving,
  • distraction (including mobile phones),
  • seatbelts and
  • speed – probably the biggest concern to local residents.

There are now over 130 Community Speed Watch groups across our area where volunteers can work with local neighbourhood teams to check speeds of cars in their local area and issue warning letters. There are also 9 enforcement vans and 3 enforcement motorbikes with mobile speed cameras. Local residents can contact the police and ask them to deploy those cameras in areas they are concerned about. The intention of deploying the vans is to deter speeding not to secure revenue and the police frequently publish the routes they will be deploying on. Avon and Somerset was one of the highest areas for issuing speeding tickets in 2018. A lot of people, however, receive a speeding awareness course rather than pay a fine.

In addition, Avon and Somerset carry out seasonal drink/drug drive enforcement campaigns at Christmas but also in the summer often linked to major sporting events and it is possible to report drunk drivers by phone or online. Avon and Somerset are one of the few forces to allow the upload of video footage direct to the website – they also encourage the reporting of near misses to support accident prevention.

Avon and Somerset also believe in working with all types of road users and support harmony and collaboration between different road users. They have adopted Operation Close Pass a scheme which originated in the West Midlands to seek to educate drivers about the safe distance to pass a cyclist. Similarly, the police expect cyclists to be considerate and tolerant towards other road users.

As in all areas of policing, Avon and Somerset are at the forefront of using data analytics to improve and target their response to this issue. 30% of victims are aged under 25 – this emphasises the need to target new drivers with road safety programmes in particular. Male drivers are 3 times more likely to be the driver in a fatal crash. Since 2014, there has been more than a 10% increase in the number of vehicles on the roads in the area.

What are the key aspects of my plans to ensure that Avon and Somerset remain a top force area for road safety:

  • Speed will remain a key focus for Avon and Somerset with the emphasis remaining on prevention rather than income generation and proactively responding to concerns from local people about speeding in their areas and supporting Community Speedwatch schemes;
  • I will explore driver education programmes focused on newly qualified and Under 25 drivers – programmes such as the Honest Truth programme which works with driving instructors to deliver key road safety messages to new drivers;
  • I will continue to support programmes such as Near Miss and Close Pass to support prevention of accidents and to promote tolerance, respect and understanding between different types of road user;
  • I will continue to provide victim support to victims of road collisions including Family Liason Officers but also to provide appropriate support to emergency service workers who deal with these very difficult and traumatic cases;
  • Continue to support the police and work with local partners on the road safety strategy based on the national strategy and the fatal four factors

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