‘More lives at risk’ as Yorkshire traffic cop numbers fall

THE number of traffic police has fallen sharply in recent years, including an almost 30 per cent reduction in one Yorkshire force, official figures have revealed.

Total numbers of traffic officers for England and Wales dipped from 5,635 at the end of March 2010 to 4,356 at the end of March 2014 - a reduction of 23 per cent.

Over the same period the numbers in West Yorkshire dropped from 315 to 225, a fall of around 28 per cent.

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In 2010 traffic officers used to make up 5.5 per cent of the West Yorkshire Police workforce but by March 2014 this had fallen to 4.6 per cent.

Numbers in South Yorkshire fell from 130 to 111, Humberside went from 116 to 96 while North Yorkshire dropped from 99 to 96.

Only two constabularies - Suffolk and Warwickshire - actually had more traffic officers at the end of the five-year period than at the beginning.

The figures showed that Devon and Cornwall police suffered the largest cut - 76 per cent - taking its traffic officers from 239 in 2010 to just 57 in 2014.

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Last week’s latest road casualty figures for Britain prompted the Institute of Advanced Motorists to suggest that the reduction in traffic police could be a factor in child casualty rates rising.

The traffic officer figures were given earlier this month by Home Office Minister Mike Penning in answer to a question from Birmingham Labour MP Jack Dromey.

The figures related to the number, and proportion of, full-time police officers “within the traffic function”.

The RAC said the figures supported research conducted for the RAC’s 2014 report on motoring which found that 60 per cent of motorists thought there were insufficient numbers of police officers on the roads to enforce driving laws and as a result there was little chance of law-breakers being caught and prosecuted for anything other than speeding or running a red light - offences typically enforced via cameras.

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RAC head of external affairs Pete Williams said: “These figures make a mockery of motoring law. If there are not enough police on the road, we can introduce all the new rules we want, but those breaking them just will not get caught.

“While cameras are good at catching speeders and drivers who go through red lights, offences that relate to general poor behaviour at the wheel still rely on a police officer to enforce them.”

Mr Williams added: “Our research shows that millions of motorists are frustrated with the cut in traffic police numbers and believe the chances of being pulled up for breaking the law are now minimal.”

Philip Goose, of Huddersfield-based road safety charity Brake, said: “Crimes that can and do lead to death and serious injury, such as speeding and mobile phone use at the wheel, can be effectively deterred through strong enforcement and penalties.

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Mr Goose added: “Yet the figures out today show the decline in numbers of specialist traffic policing, putting more lives at risk on our roads. Law-breaking drivers must know that they will be caught, which means we need more dedicated traffic police to stop them.”