Three reasons why road deaths are reducing in Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 16:30 08 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:38 25 September 2019
Fewer people are dying on Suffolk's roads - with police recording a 20% drop in fatal crashes compared to last year.
23 people have been killed in collisions in Suffolk this year - with incidents involving a cyclist, cars, a mobility scooter, motorcycles, a bicycle and pedestrians.
The crashes took place in Ipswich, Newton, Sutton, Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds, Bungay, Woolpit, Exning, Rougham, Burstall, Great Barton, Syleham and Mildenhall - with four happening in January.
Inspector Chris Hinitt, from Suffolk's collision investigation team, thinks a 20% fall in the number of fatalities could be down to drivers paying more attention, quicker responses from the NHS and improvements to car safety.
Despite the drop, he said the force is urging people to stay vigilant - and cracking down on motorists using mobile phones at the wheel or drink and drug driving.
"We don't want to prosecute drivers, we want to educate them about speed and mobile phone use and prevent these kinds of life-changing accidents," he said.
"Is a phone call really worth someone's life?"
Officers say there has been a 19.35% fall in the number of fatalities from crashes in 2018/19 compared to 2017/18.
There has, however, been an 11.3% increase in the number of people killed or seriously injured over the same time period - from January to April.
Mr Hinitt said: "We've seen an increase in the number of those seriously injured but a decrease in the number of fatalities.
"My professional opinion would put this down to the quick responses from the NHS to the scenes of collisions, the improvements in car safety and that drivers are possibly becoming more responsible.
"People are beginning to pay more attention."
The 'fatal four' explained
Drivers are more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a crash if they commit one of the 'fatal four' offences - drink driving, drug driving, using a mobile phone and not wearing a seat belt.
Mr Hinitt said: "People know that these things are illegal but they are choosing to go against the law so they must pay the consequences."
He said drink driving is a particular issue with people aged over 28 - but in recent years the numbers have slightly decreased.
Drug driving becomes a bigger problem for the under 30s, he said, and this rise could be due to drugs being more detectable now with the advanced road side tests available.
Penalties for drivers caught using their phone at the wheel have also had an impact.
From March 2017, the penalty for using a mobile phone while driving doubled from £100 to £200. Those caught also receive a penalty of six points,
Mr Hinitt added: "This increased penalty has stopped many people in Suffolk using their mobile phones at the wheel."
Most people do wear seat belts - but according to Mr Hinitt, delivery drivers are the biggest offenders.
He added: "The police don't want to criminalise people, we want people to be safe on the roads and minimise the number of collisions.
"It shouldn't be about how quick you can get to work for 9am, it should be about getting from A to B safely."
What is being done to help reduce fatal collisions?
Suffolk Police have a safe rider scheme for motorcyclists, which they encourage all riders to take part in. They are also encouraging responsible cycling and have launched a 'Close Pass' operation to promote space and time when approaching cyclists.
Suffolk police also advise elderly people to take regular eye checks, and will encourage those who are unfit to drive to hand in their licence.