Policing Insight publishes Charlie Norman’s latest thought leadership piece “Roads policing and road safety: How improved partnership working can resolve the post-Covid funding squeeze” – published Monday 8th March 2021
Roads policing and road safety: How improved partnership working can resolve the post-Covid funding squeeze
With funding for policing and the wider public sector likely to be under significant pressure in the post-Covid economic landscape, resources for roads policing may be severely stretched; Charlie Norman, Managing Director of DriveTech, believes improved partnerships with the private sector could be crucial to maintaining safety on the roads.
There’s speculation everywhere about what the legacy of the Covid era will be, with opinion divided about the extent to which we will return to the way we used to operate. But one thing is undeniable – the Government is going to have to take action to restore the public finances to health after spending £280bn on its response to the pandemic. All sectors will be affected by this, and policing is no exception.
“Few are making the case for a significant hike in the commitment to roads policing – yet as we have discussed in several recent articles in Policing Insight, the challenge of keeping our roads safe is rapidly becoming more complex.”
Policing budgets had been recovering over the last couple of years following almost a decade of austerity. The 20,000 reduction in officer numbers that was experienced between 2010 and 2018 is in the process of being reversed and there was optimism about future growth both at force level and in national policing bodies. But all that is surely set to change whenever the Chancellor finally judges that the time has come for a multi-year spending review.
At DriveTech our raison d’être is road safety, and we’re concerned about the prospects for roads policing in this harsh budgetary climate. The debate about where the additional 20,000 officers are going to be deployed continues to rage – with a strong case being made for neighbourhood policing to redress the cuts of previous years as well as for safeguarding, online offending, organised crime and counter-terrorism, to reflect the changing threats that our society faces.
Few are making the case for a significant hike in the commitment to roads policing – yet as we have discussed in several recent articles in Policing Insight, the challenge of keeping our roads safe is rapidly becoming more complex.
Autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, E-scooters, and other innovations are bringing new challenges that test our traditional approach, and the chances are that we need to find new capabilities within current resources to respond. One way to close that resourcing gap will be the development of new and existing partnerships.
The partnership approach
There is a long history of partnership working in the road safety space. The 1988 Road Traffic Act gives wide statutory responsibilities for road safety to local authorities and these complement the responsibilities of forces and PCCs.
Road Safety Partnerships have had many successes over the years, but they suffered from the reduction in resources that characterised the austerity era. If we are to look to these partnerships to step up and meet the challenges of a changing road environment – and to do so without significant extra resourcing – then it’s vital that all potential contributors are encouraged to take part.
“We have been working with police forces and local authorities for over 30 years to improve road safety and reduce casualties. There are abundant examples of effective joint action to make roads safer.”
This is a great opportunity to involve the private sector more comprehensively than has generally been the case.
We have been working with police forces and local authorities for over 30 years to improve road safety and reduce casualties. There are abundant examples of effective joint action to make roads safer.
For example, in Northern Ireland for the past five years we have worked with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and in turn Road Safe NI, supporting individual and community initiatives that contribute to safer roads. In particular we have partnered with the national primary schools road safety awareness agenda, as well as promoting PSNI’s road safety vision.
Prioritising education among future generations of motorists, but equally recognising the influence children have over parents, older siblings and driving behaviours, should not be undervalued, or ignored.
Public and private sector combining
Another example is in South Yorkshire, where we have commenced a scheme to offer a blend of online and in-car training to 400 full licence holders aged under 24, which is free at the point of delivery.
This blended approach allows learning on key identified risks of rural and night driving plus a specific module on driving enjoyment. This is consolidated with an on-road session focusing on impulsivity and all this culminates in an individual action plan.
The scheme is being evaluated by a respected team of university academics co-funded with the Safer Roads Partnership. It’s an excellent example of the public and private sector combining.
“We are working with partners to explore the potential benefits of small group learning for high-risk drivers identified by the police through a risk matrix.”
In Thames Valley we have worked with partners since 2009 to deliver a young driver scheme for those under 25 who commit speeding offences or are involved in minor collisions. This targeted approach towards young people – adding online learning to a more formal classroom session – provides enhanced opportunity to change behaviour for people who are at higher risk of being involved in collisions. The scheme is in its second iteration and is currently being updated for 2021.
Elsewhere, we are working with partners to explore the potential benefits of small group learning for high-risk drivers identified by the police through a risk matrix. The aim is to change behaviour before they have a serious accident.
A luxury add-on becomes a core service
We are extremely proud of the work we do with police forces and local authorities. We believe that we have made a real difference to thousands of lives through our effective partnerships. But the nature of these partnerships needs to change if the progress that we have made in recent times is to be continued and if we are to evolve to meet new safety challenges on our roads.
What was once a luxury – an add-on to core provision – is going to have to become core service. The private sector, including companies like DriveTech, has too much to offer to be ignored.
As the public sector tightens its belt to manage the inevitable correction in public finances, what was once the icing will need to become the cake. Thankfully there is no shortage of innovative companies out there who are ready to play their part in a new era of partnership working; we just need to give them the opportunity to do so.
DriveTech is a safety organisation with an on-road focus that helps drivers remain safe on the roads, supporting commercial businesses with their duty of care and legal obligations towards employed drivers, and also delivering police-referred driver offender courses on behalf of a large number of UK police forces.
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