PCC supports Brake Road Safety Week
In 2017, Dorset has thankfully so far seen the number of people seriously injured on our roads decrease. But sadly, we have also seen the number of road deaths rise.
Efforts to improve education, enforcement and engineering in the county continue; but the reality is that year in, year out, a proportion of our fatalities are caused by poor, split-second judgement calls, which partnership activity is powerless to change. Nevertheless, we must concentrate on the areas where we can make a real difference.
Dorset Police does not yet have a full data set for 2017 and all data remains speculative until validated, however this Brake Road Safety Week, I would like to raise awareness of two key issues affecting our county.
Of the fatal collisions this year, a notable proportion has involved elderly motorists. Dorset Police recently launched the Older Drivers Forum. The scheme offers training, advice and guidance for motorists who are keen to continue driving safely, and supports those who feel they must consider alternative methods of transport. What is also striking is the number of elderly pedestrians who have lost their lives this year, which may indicate further lessons to be learned.
A second significant trend relates to drink and drug driving. Over a quarter of road fatalities so far this year have involved motorists impaired by alcohol, drugs or both. In the run up to the festive season, I hope that this will serve as a timely reminder to all road users. Making the selfish and unnecessary choice to drive while under the influence has the potential to devastate families.
I continue to lobby Government to lower the drink drive limit. We have the most generous drink drive threshold in Europe. As a result, there is a lack of clarity about what is a “safe” or legal amount to drink and drive. A lower alcohol limit, where one drink could cost you your license, would more effectively deter motorists from drinking at all before getting behind the wheel.
Road safety didn’t feature heavily in my first Police & Crime Plan for Dorset, but residents have rightly raised it as an issue and my role is to ensure policing is responsive to local concerns. Within 100 days of taking office, I met my commitment to train additional officers with the skills needed to carry out roadside screenings for cannabis and cocaine.
For a small force, Dorset Police is punching well above its weight. All officers and special constables working in the Traffic and No Excuse teams are equipped to conduct roadside screenings using mobile testing equipment. Around half of the tests conducted deliver positive results, underlining Dorset Police’s proactive and targeted approach to drug driving. This is a record to be proud of.
In the coming months, this training will be extended even further to response officers operating out of Weymouth, Bournemouth and Poole, enhancing our ability to crack down on drivers who pay little regard to the law.
Back in October 2017, the Government indicated that under new plans, causing death by careless driving while drunk or on drugs will soon carry the top-level punishment. This is something I fully support. Department for Transport figures show that the average sentence for those who cause road deaths is four years. Dangerous drivers must face the consequences of their actions; for too long, victims’ families have had their grief compounded by lenient sentencing.
I applaud local officers and partners for their commitment to road safety in Dorset and I urge all motorists to avoid dangerous decision-making, which puts other drivers and pedestrians at risk.
Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner