According to a new report from The AA, over half of UK drivers think they can get away with dangerous driving on Britain’s roads – because there aren’t enough police around to catch them. Following well-publicised cuts in the number of traffic officers, 54% think that they can escape prosecution if they use a hand-held mobile phone while they are driving.
A growing confidence
A further 55% of them said they would not be stopped for driving a vehicle that was in dangerous or defective condition for the same reason. The poll of 19,500 drivers saw 65% thought they were unlikely to be pulled over for a range of offences such as middle lane hogging or tailgating.
AA president Edmund King described the results as worrying and said there was a need for more ‘cops in cars’ to help deter people from breaking a range of driving laws.
In one respect, people’s opinions have a basis – the number of road police officers fell by nearly a third in the last ten years between 2007 to 2017, according to a Freedom of Information request sent by the Press Association. It means the number of ‘cops in cars’ has fallen from 3,766 to 2,643.
It is reflected in the perceptions of drivers, with 43% thinking that the police have no visible presence on the motorways, and 65% thinking they have no visible presence on local roads. Police presences have declined, but the fines for some minor offences have soared – due to the use of CCTV cameras.
According to Mr King, this worrying situation comes as people feel there are no police officers on the roads and therefore there is little chance of getting caught for different offences. And while the CCTV camera can act as a deterrent in some cases, a perceived presence from the police is the ultimate deterrent.
He further went on to say that the significant drop in specialist traffic officers means it has become more and more challenging to keep everyone safe on the roads around the country.
Breaking the rules is still costing British motorists a lot of money – the RAC Foundation issued a report recently showing that drivers are paying more than £1 billion in fines every year. 12 million penalty notices were handed out annually, the equivalent of one every 2.5 seconds. It also means around one-third of the 40 million motorists on the road are receiving a fine.
Speeding remains the most common reason to receive a fine, with new penalties with a maximum fine of £2,500 and anywhere from 3-6 points on your license. There are even situations where you can get an instant disqualification.
Using a mobile phone and eating behind the wheel are two other common offences that can lead to fines. Mobile phones can now see a £1,000 fine and 3 points and, in some cases, you can even be fined £200 for holding a mobile phone while driving regardless of whether you’re using it or not.
Around half a million fines were sent for offences such as not having insurance or failing to renew your driving license. No insurance is a serious one, and there are fines up to £5,000 with driving bans not being uncommon, and standard points given between 6-8. You will also see a substantial rise in your insurance costs when you do start driving again, as convicted drivers are seen as a higher risk.
Despite concerns about the lack of police presence, only 45% of those surveyed said that there should be more power given to Highways England officers. Just one third wanted police community support officers to pitch in and help with road policing.
According to Mr King, this shows that people want more police on the streets to deal with crimes when driving rather than any other option.
Have you noticed less police out on the roads? Do you agree there is a crisis? Let us know in the comments below.