Safety charity raises road deaths alarm as traffic officers fall victim to cutbacks

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PUBLIC spending cuts could lead to a rise in drink drivers because traffic police numbers are being slashed by more than 11 per cent, a road safety charity has claimed.

Research from Brake claims the cuts to traffic officers are six times greater than to overall police numbers, according to data from 43 UK forces.

The charity said cuts to road policing have been dramatic and widespread throughout the past decade. In 1999 there were 7,525 dedicated traffic police in England and Wales, falling to 6,511 in 2005. Brake’s research reveals this trend has continued across the UK.

Cuts are especially severe in Wales, where traffic police numbers have fallen by 37 per cent since 2007.

Julie Townsend, Brake’s deputy chief executive, said: “It is crucial the government acts now to put a stop to these dramatic cuts in life-saving roads policing, by making this a national policing priority.

“This is crucial in safeguarding the public and preventing needless casualties that lead to terrible suffering, and it also makes economic sense.

“Road crashes constitute a huge social and economic burden, because of the awful implications for those bereaved and injured, and the strain on health and emergency services. Investing in roads policing, and stepping up critical checks like breath-testing, helps stop crashes before they happen, meaning less families suffering and reduced costs to the taxpayer.”

The charity said there are five deaths and 65 serious injuries on UK roads every day,

Last week the Association of Chief Police Officers released results from its Christmas breath-testing campaign, showing that in England and Wales forces breath-tested nearly 157,000 drivers, with 5 per cent testing positive.

Brake said it fears a repeat of tragic cases such as that of Leeds teenager Jessica Middlebrook, killed in the back seat of a car driven by a drink driver in September 2007.

The driver clipped another car, flipping his own onto its roof. Jessica, 17, died from multiple injuries at the scene.