Rise in road deaths in Devon and Cornwall blamed on traffic policing shake-up
THE number of people killed on the roads of Devon and Cornwall has risen for the first time in seven years after dedicated traffic officers were axed because of budget cuts.
Fatal accidents reached a modern-day low in 2011 when 42 people died in fatal collisions in the two counties. It continued a year-on-year fall in road deaths since 2005 when 100 people were killed.
But the downward trend has been reversed with 50 deaths in crashes already this year, with winter months yet to come.
It follows the decision by Devon and Cornwall Police, in May 2010, to axe its dedicated traffic officers as part of a new operating model designed to cope with four-year, £50 million budget cuts and the loss of hundreds of personnel.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
Traffic officers have been integrated into the "response" department to deal with 999 calls.
At the time of the reorganisation, concerns were raised by some senior officers as well as the Police Federation, a staff association for constables, sergeants and inspectors.
Sergeant Nigel Rabbitts, chairman of the Federation in Devon and Cornwall, said he was "not surprised" by the increase.
"I do think there's a correlation between the two," he said, "because there is very little enforcement going on. It is too much of a coincidence and that is what our members are telling us.
"The first responsibility of response officers is to answer those urgent calls to assist the public, and rightly so. Roads policing is a secondary tasking and they just don't have the time to do it."
Devon and Cornwall Police has said it has no plans to re-instate its traffic department albeit with fewer officers, despite strong and long-running rumours to the contrary.
Roads deaths in the region have fallen significantly over the last decade from a high of 109 in 2002. The last increase was from 2004, when there were 86 fatalities, to 2005 when there were 100.
Assistant Chief Constable Paul Netherton said there was no pattern to indicate either specific problems with driving standards or issues at particularly locations.
He stressed that the numbers remained "low" and that the roads of Devon and Cornwall were rated as the safest in the country.
"We are still on the roads, we are still out there, and are encouraging all our response officers to take a proactive approach and running operations on different subjects on different dates," he said.