January 15, 2016

There has never been a better time – should the fancy take you – to go out and commit some traffic offences. In today’s austerity-strapped Britain, there are 25% fewer police persons keeping an eye on what we get up to behind the wheel than back in 2010.

Killjoys argue that cutting 1,300 traffic cop roles has cleared the way for on-road anarchy and mayhem. Nonsense, Road Safety Minister Andy Jones told some committee or other the other day: recorded traffic incidents have fallen dramatically over the past five years.

Cynics might wonder whether this has more to do with the recording than the offending, but HMG can fall back on stats that show the UK’s roads are safer than anyone else’s – except the Swedes’ (and they’re legally obliged to drive everywhere slowly and soberly in specially reinforced cars with the headlights on full, so yeah…).

So, yes, OK, the number of people killed or injured on our roads rose by 4 or 5% in 2014, having fallen steadily since 1997, but that, as Jones was quick to point out, is hardly statistically significant and wasn’t due to anything in particular. And linking the rise to the 1 in 4 cull of traffic cops is simply “wrong”.

Having a road safety record in this country that is not simply adequate but actually “fantastically good”, Jones said, the government now plans “to build upon that in a number of different ways.”

This will involve the use of prongs, he explained. Three of them to be precise. Prongs called education, engineering, and – when all else fails – enforcement.

Police officers and others who imply that motorists are deterred from dangerous, illegal or irresponsible driving by the thickness or thinness of some mysterious blue line, are completely missing the point, Jones suggested. And, in any case, technology like ANPR and speed cams can do what former cops are not around to do.

So instead of moaning on about the people who are being killed or injured on our roads, we should perhaps be celebrating all the ones who aren’t. But, of course, Jones added, the government is 100% committed to ensuring safety on our roads and deeply conscious that “behind every statistic is a lost life, a shattered family or both”.

Not quite every statistic, presumably, but it’s a noble sentiment, and you get the general idea.

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