Remembering those involved in accidents on Dorset's roads

I want to live in a county in which nobody dies or has serious injuries in road accidents.

That is quite a claim, but I make it for an important reason. While we talk a lot about statistics in policing we need to remember that there are real people behind these numbers.

This is particularly true when it comes to road traffic accidents.

I was one of those who was pleased to announce earlier this year that the number of people killed or seriously injured on Dorset’s roads had shown a sustained fall.

The number fell from 393 in 2012 to 293 in 2018. Slight or minor collisions have also seen a reduction – just over 30% during the same period. And if you go back as far as 1999, there’s even more of a drop in the number of people involved in accidents.

As someone involved in the policies behind how we police the county’s roads, this was a great source of optimism.

Roads policing has at its core the need to reduce the number of people involved in accidents.

This includes everything from hands-on operations by our No Excuse team, such as Operation Dragoon – targeting prolific offenders who pose a risk on the road – to publicity campaigns encouraging motorists to make better choices.

Dorset also has a growing number of Community Speed Watch groups, in which members of the public monitor motorists’ behaviour and pass details to the police.

Last year saw these groups complete more than 1,000 sessions, showing a huge appetite for the public to be involved in improving safety, and increasingly they are accompanied by Dorset Police with laser cameras – meaning speeding drivers receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution rather than a warning letter.

And we have just launched Op Snap, empowering responsible motorists to help the police by uploading dashcam or otherwise filmed video and digital photographs of road traffic incidents which they have witnessed.

The latest figures were an indication that the approach we are taking is having the desired effect and Dorset’s roads are getting safer – particularly as they bucked the national trend and figures across the rest of the UK showed a worrying rise in casualty numbers.

However, these figures still meant there had been 293 people who were either killed or sustained a serious – potentially life-changing – accident on our roads, and that each of those people had friends, family, or perhaps children, who will also have been affected. When you start to think in these terms, you view the situation very differently.

August is National Road Victims Month, an opportunity for us all to think about those people who have been involved in road collisions.

And next month will see a first for Dorset – a Service of Remembrance held at Wimborne Minster for those who have been killed or injured on the county’s roads.

The service, held on Saturday 21 September, will be an opportunity for those who have been affected to gather and for those who have been injured or lost their lives to be remembered.

I am incredibly grateful to the Right Reverend Karen Gorham, Bishop of Sherborne, for organising this service in partnership with Dorset Police and their Chaplains.

This will be a truly special service and I would encourage anyone who has been affected by a road accident to attend, regardless of what their religious beliefs are – or even whether or not they have any.

It will also enable us to give thanks to police officers and members of other blue light services who attend road traffic accidents and oversee road safety. These people often have to deal with incredibly traumatic incidents and it is right that we recognise the difficult but essential work that they do.

The service will mark the culmination of a week of activity carried out by Dorset Police and awareness raising articles in the local press – so be on the look-out for this from the middle of September, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook for more details.

We will also use the service as an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of road safety, encourage motorists to take more care, and highlight the work that is taking place to make our roads safer across the county.

It is terrifying to think how a road collision, which could well be over in a split second, can change the course of not one, but several people’s lives. We all need to think about this every time we get behind the wheel.

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