Education remains the key to driving change amongst motorists
THE issue of road safety is one that affects all of us, whether we are pedestrians, cyclists or motorists.
Any casualty or death on Essex roads, is one too many, and that is why road safety is one of my dedicated areas of focus in my Police and Crime Plan. Furthermore any changes to legislation which make it tougher for people to get away with anti-social, careless or dangerous driving are welcome.
In August 2013, government introduced new legislation giving police officers greater powers to deal with less serious careless and anti-social driving offences, such as tailgating or middle lane hogging. Using these powers, officers are able to give out £100 on the spot fines for these offences, which though may appear trivial, are bad driving practices which put the lives of other road users at risk.
However, and perhaps crucially, the fixed penalty also enables police to offer educational training to drivers as an alternative endorsement to the fine.
Recently, headlines in the media have reflected that whilst many constabularies around the country have issued thousands of these on the spot fines, Essex Police have, to date, not issued any, see below:
But, I would like the public of Essex to rest assured, that the fact that officers in our county have not issued fines is not a sign that the legislation is not being used to great effect. It also does not mean that bad drivers are getting away with it or that police are not being proactive. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
In Essex, police officers from the force’s Casualty Reduction Section proactively target anti-social and bad drivers. But, instead of seeking to fine them, Essex Police seeks to educate motorists with the long term goal of improving their bad driving practices.
It is easy for our police officers to dish out an on the spot fines, but what is the value of that approach if you are not changing the behaviour of the driver that makes them a hazard to other road users?
We know from the research carried out by the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) programme that education is a more effective method of dealing with offenders and providing longer term positive road safety benefits.
Instead of issuing fines in Essex, officers instead issue Traffic Offence Reports where appropriate. This means that where a police officer has witnessed a traffic offence, details of that incident and the details of the driver are sent to Essex Police’s Casualty Reduction, Enforcement and Education Support Team (CREEST) who then decide how matters will proceed.
In 2014, Essex Police issued 9,309 Traffic Offence Reports for less serious careless driving offences. Of those 6,895 attended driver improvement courses – no small number. A further 1,673 individuals ended up in court for failing to pay for or attend one of these courses and 400 were issued and complied with Conditional Offers, which involves them paying a fine after an offence has been committed.
As Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, I am committed to ensuring everything is done to keep our roads safe. I know the Chief Constable shares my view and this is demonstrated, day in, day out, by the hard and tireless work of Essex Police’s road safety officers.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex
To read more about how Essex Police is improving road safety, read more here