RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, has today published a review looking at traffic law enforcement across London. Based on the latest statistics from 2017, the findings have led the charity to call for improved transparency and accountability of the Metropolitan Police, to understand the strategy it is deploying to tackle road danger. London should be leading the way when it comes to traffic law enforcement, and RoadPeace’s review indicates that enforcement is not only inconsistent and infrequent across the capital, but doesn’t compare well nationally either.
The review – Traffic Law Enforcement: Baseline Review – analyses how well the police are able to detect and prosecute road traffic crime in London. With a daily average of over 10 million motor vehicle trips, there is much potential for non-compliance and increased risk to other road users. In 2017, 131 people were reported killed on London’s roads, and over 3,500 were reported seriously injured. This review shows the challenges London’s Vision Zero action plan, launched in July 2018, must tackle if road deaths and serious injuries are to be eliminated from London’s streets as the Mayor has pledged.
Despite the risk that road crime poses to public safety, the Metropolitan Police’s detection varied significantly between different boroughs, across the vast majority of traffic offences in 2017:
- Careless driving – 20 times as many sanctions in Westminster (202) than Richmond (10)
- Mobile phone offences – eight times as many offences detected in Westminster than in Bexley
- Cycle offences – Southwark reported the largest number of cycle offences detected (833), followed by Westminster (475), whilst Bexley, Kingston upon Thames and Richmond upon Thames all reported only one cycle offence
Speed offences, which represent the largest share of traffic offences (accounting for 52%) showed similar discrepancies across boroughs. Camera detected violations accounted for 98% of 20mph speeding violations sanctions, and 89% of 30 mph. Officers sanctioned 23 drivers a day (fewer than one per borough on average) for 30mph offences. Eight boroughs had no officer detected 20mph sanctions; there was little officer detected speeding over 2017.
- Ealing reported the highest 30 mph speeding offences (8535), Wandsworth (5965), and Lambeth (5413) to a low of 83 in Kensington and Chelsea and 206 in Waltham Forest
- 128 drivers a day were sanctioned for breaking the 20mph speed limit, up hugely (755% from 2015), thanks primarily to Hackney, which accounted for 90% of all 20mph speed sanctions in 2017.
- Very few 20mph speed sanctions were given in outer London boroughs—fewer than 1%
Reported road deaths and serious injuries did not vary as much as enforcement. And traffic law enforcement is needed to reduce intimidation. TfL have rightly identified “people feel safe” as a key indicator of their Healthy Streets programme which is aimed at increasing active travel in the capital.
But how effective is the police’s traffic law enforcement overall?
As part of the review, RoadPeace compared the Metropolitan Police with two other large police regions – West Midlands and Greater Manchester – as well as the national average and best performing region for each offence. It is worth noting that it is not just police enforcement that secures a prosecution – the Crown Prosecution Service decides whether a detected offence will be prosecuted. Three offences were analysed (dangerous driving, drink driving and drug driving) based on the number of prosecutions per KSI in each region:
- Dangerous driving and drink driving – the Metropolitan Police was below the national average for both offences, and there were around twice as many prosecutions in West Midlands and Greater Manchester
- Drug driving – the Metropolitan Police was at the national average. Although performing slightly worse than Greater Manchester, it performed better than the West Midlands.
Given the severity of these crimes it’s alarming that there are only three dangerous drivers being arrested a day across London. Whilst drug driving increased to 2,181 (up 70% from 2015), drink driving fell to 6,425 – down 15% in two years.
It would seem that there is a long way to go before the Metropolitan Police is able to deliver on the Mayor’s Vision Zero Action Plan. Launched in July 2018, the plan outlines steps to eliminate all death and serious injury on London roads by 2041. Of course traffic law enforcement is just one component, but has promised to:
‘increase efforts with the police, boroughs and enforcement agencies in tackling dangerous and careless road user behaviour that puts people at risk’.
RoadPeace’s review was based on the latest statistics, published earlier this year. However the statistics are largely from 2017; before the launch of Vision Zero. There have been encouraging steps taken since then. Namely the launch of the three-tiered approach to policing within Vision Zero, and its continued commitment to publishing an annual review of enforcement activity.
However, without more transparency and accountability, it is difficult to explain the inconsistencies across London, and the Metropolitan Police’s standing nationally. As such, RoadPeace has called for:
- increased transparency by the police with its objectives, indicators and methods of evaluating its traffic law effectiveness
- careless and dangerous driving be adopted as police priorities
- review of the reasons for the widespread variation with offence detection between boroughs
- ensuring greater consistency with how Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime treats road crime with a road traffic crime dashboard developed, and lead contact identified.
- faster publication of enforcement statistics from TfL. Just as TfL has begun releasing preliminary casualty statistics on a quarterly basis, so should it do with enforcement statistics.
Victoria Lebrec, London crash victim and Campaign Coordinator for RoadPeace, said ‘Traffic law enforcement should not be a postcode lottery. Victims should not be denied justice based on where they live, nor should they be more at risk from people driving dangerously. The police are stretched, but Londoners deserve to have road danger tackled effectively. The first step is understanding what would count as success for London – what are they aiming for? How many dangerous drivers prosecuted would be deemed successful? How many careless drivers? Understanding this will help the community to monitor their work effectively’.
RoadPeace expects to see positive change in traffic law enforcement as the Metropolitan Police delivers on its promises within the Vision Zero Action Plan. Our review has shown the challenge to be tackled, and the importance of TfL commitment and investment in improving traffic law enforcement in London. At a time when police are being pulled in other directions, and budget cuts are being felt, this should be a timely reminder of the importance and need for the police keeping people safe on the road.