Safety fears after Essex traffic cops cut

Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell speaking in the House of Commons

Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell speaking in the House of Commons - Credit: Archant

Fears that road safety could be jeopardised were voiced last night after it was revealed that the number of traffic police in Essex had dropped by 71%.

The RAC said that in some parts of England where patrols had been slashed, drivers felt there was minimal chance of being pulled up for offences.

Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell said the situation was “clearly a matter of concern”.

He said: “If there are fewer police officers around to enforce the law, there could be a rise in crashes and injuries and fatalities and this is a serious matter.

“I think the Chief Constable of Essex and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex should give an account of why this huge reduction in traffic officers has happened.”

While all motorists had a duty to obey the law while driving, Sir Bob said traffic officers were a visible reminder to everyone of the law and that the police are enforcing it.

Figures highlighted by the RAC showed 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%.

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Although some forces were employing a larger proportion of officers on traffic duties per workforce in 2014 than in 2010, a reduction in total police numbers meant that only two constabularies – Suffolk and Warwickshire – actually had more traffic officers at the end of the five-year period than at the beginning.

By the end of March 2014, traffic police made up only 3.4% of officers.

Essex’s traffic police numbers fell by 71%, the second highest fall in the country behind Devon and Cornwall police at 76%.

The RAC said its research found 60% of motorists thought there were insufficient numbers of police 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.

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.

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

No-one was available to comment from Essex Police.