Road deaths on the rise across Devon and Cornwall after traffic officers were axed in cost-cutting
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.
Fatalities were at a modern-day low in 2011 when 42 people died in traffic accidents in the two counties, continuing a year-on-year fall in road deaths since 2005 when 100 people were killed.
But the positive downward trend has been reversed with 50 deaths in crashes already this year, with two 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 attempts to cope with £50 million budget cuts across four years and the loss of hundreds of personnel.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
Traffic officers have been integrated into the response department to deal with 999 calls.
At the time of the reorganisation, senior officers raised concerns, along with 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 in fatal accidents.
"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 reinstate its traffic department with fewer officers, despite strong and long-running rumours to the contrary.
Roads deaths in the region have fallen significantly during 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 particular locations. He stressed that the numbers remained "low" and that the roads of Devon and Cornwall were rated as the safest in the country. "This is a priority for us," said Mr Netherton. "Every accident in which someone loses their life has a huge impact, particularly on the family of the victim.
"We are still on the roads, we are still out there, and are encouraging all our response officers to take a proactive approach and we are running operations on different subjects on different dates."
The force continued to run education and awareness courses, Mr Netherton explained, such as "Learn To Live" and "The Honest Truth".
Officers have also targeted high risk groups such as motorcyclists and servicemen recently home from operations in Afghanistan.