Cycling Scotland response to the Westminster Committee Inquiry into Road Traffic law enforcement.

Posted by Katie Wright / 13/10/2015

cslogosqHouse of Commons Transport Committee: Road traffic law enforcement inquiry

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this Committee Inquiry. Cycling Scotland is the nation’s cycling organisation. Working with others, we help create and deliver opportunities and an environment so anyone anywhere in Scotland can cycle easily and safely. Our vision is of a sustainable, inclusive and healthy Scotland where anyone, anywhere can enjoy all the benefits of cycling.

We would like to make the following comments:

The Government’s priorities and leadership role in improving road safety through traffic law enforcement.

While most aspects of road safety are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, enforcement of Road Traffic Law is the responsibility of Police Scotland and prosecution decisions are made by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). Nonetheless, there remain crucial aspects where the Transport Committee should consider the evidence across Great Britain, notably on the offences of dangerous and careless driving.

Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain: Main results 2014 made clear that there is an ever increasing problem with pedal cyclist casualties in Great Britain: the number of seriously injured pedal cyclists has increased every year, except 2012-2013, since the low of 2,174 in 2004. Deaths in the vulnerable road users group (pedestrians, cyclists & motorcyclists) are now a larger proportion of all road deaths, rising from 46% in 2005-09 to 50% in 2014.

In Scotland specifically, a similar trend is clear from Key Reported Road Casualties Scotland 2014: the only road safety indicator consistently moving in the wrong direction is cycling casualties, with a 16% increase in serious injuries from 2004-8 to 2014.

It is essential that the UK Government and Scottish Government work in partnership to improve road safety to achieve the key outcome of less people being seriously injured on our roads, whether riding bikes or using any other mode.

The impact of road traffic law enforcement on the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. 

We believe the Committee must focus on expanding evidence around enforcement and vulnerable road users in particular. While the evidence is clear that cycling levels are increasing, as are cycling serious injuries, there is a good deal of speculation but insufficient evidence around the specific causes of the increases in casualties and injury-crashes.

We further note that, according to the data in Homicide in Scotland, 2013-14, that convictions for causing death by dangerous driving have declined while convictions for causing death by careless driving have increased. We believe the Committee should investigate these trends further.

Driving related homicides and Corporate homicide, Scotland, 2004-05 to 2013-14

Number

Type of Crime

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

2009-10

2010-11

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

Causing death by dangerous driving 21 25 37 23 27 22 17 15 9 17
Death by careless driving while under the influence of drugs/alcohol 2 1 1 1 1 2
Causing death by careless driving ~ ~ ~ ~ 3 4 8 11 8 20
Illegal driver involved in fatal accident ~ ~ ~ ~ 3 1 2 2 6 6
Corporate homicide ~ ~ ~ ~ 1 2 1 2

~ = The relevant legislations for these categories were implemented in 2008-09.

The introduction of fixed penalty notices for careless driving: how these powers are being used, and whether alternatives to penalties should be considered.

The Annual Cycling Monitoring Report 2015 from Cycling Scotland, among many other sources, highlights that safety fears are the number one barrier preventing more people cycling. We believe that it is essential that there is a credible deterrent to careless driving, to ensure people feel safe as vulnerable road users. Any proposal around Fixed Penalty Notices should be assessed against its impact on road user attitudes and the impact of careless driving on perceptions of safety for people cycling.

Enforcement agencies’ capacity to enforce DfT policy on dangerous and careless driving.

We note the ongoing reports regarding Police numbers in Scotland and believe Police Scotland should be invited to comment on their capacity to enforce dangerous and careless driving,.specially in urban areas.

The deployment of people and technology in enforcing road traffic policy.

We believe that technology has a role to play in road safety- as demonstrated in initially positive results from use of average speed cameras on the A9- but it is also essential that road user behaviours that lead to casualty crashes are understood and improved. According to Annual Cycling Monitoring Report 2015; 70% of injury crashes in built-up areas happen at junctions or roundabouts. Technology has a role to play, through enforcement of red light obedience for all road users for example, however it is clear that technology cannot capture all such behaviours and deployment of people remains essential.

The impact of devolution of road traffic enforcement activities to local authorities.

The Scottish Parliament is currently considering the Footway and Double Parking (Scotland) Bill which will effectively devolve responsibility for enforcing parking behaviour from Police Scotland to Local Authorities with decriminalised parking regimes. We believe this may offer a successful model in many local authority areas but reiterate our view that enforcement is a critical aspect to road safety and that there is no substitute for deterring dangerous and careless driving through Police enforcement.

Conclusion

Finally, we would draw the Committee’s attention to responses from CTC and CTC Scotland which will cover aspects of safety specifically for cycling in more detail.

In conclusion, we welcome this Committee Inquiry and we believe it is essential to maintain a strong focus on road safety at all levels of Government. We would conclude by highlighting and reiterating the following recommendations in the House of Commons Transport Committee Sixteenth Report of Session 2003–04 into Traffic Law and its Enforcement:

“4. Roads policing must be one of the strategic priorities of police work, otherwise it will not be properly valued and resourced. (Paragraph 22)

10. The penalties for road traffic offences must match the penalties for other crimes against the person, and for crimes against property. Offenders must not face lower sentences, simply because their crime involved a car. (Paragraph 45)

12. We recognise that some fatal crashes occur through no fault of the driver, and some are a tragic consequence of a momentary misjudgement. Far more crashes occur as a result of negligent behaviour. A single offence of “causing death/serious injury by negligent driving” should be created in any reform of motoring offences. Courts should have wide discretion over sentencing, which must depend on the full facts of each case. We are confident that the alleged difficulties of a broad offence can be overcome. Sensible enforcement of this offence would help secure justice for victims of negligent driving. It would also dispel the myth that road deaths are usually unfortunate accidents. (Paragraph 51)

26. The Government needs to publicise more effectively the fact that drivers who receive automatic penalties for speeding have not committed a minor transgression but have significantly exceeded the speed limit. For example, the enforcement threshold means they will have been travelling at least 35mph in a 30mph zone. This difference is not trivial; it means the difference between life and death for many of those involved in collisions. The thresholds for higher speeds are even more generous. (Paragraph 87)”

 

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