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Road deaths on the rise across Devon and Cornwall after traffic officers were axed in cost-cutting

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 25, 2012

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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.

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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.

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  • reptor2456  |  October 25 2012, 9:18PM

    How many deaths are due to pensioners driving well below the speed limit and thus causing people to over take them? Just a thought.

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  • TheTakemon2  |  October 25 2012, 8:49PM

    General bad driving such as people not indicating properly on roundabouts and people cutting corners on roads has never been enforced and so many people do it, especially drivers over 40 who get lazy but think they are perfect drivers!. People need to realise the older they are their skills deteriorate. Young drivers may be involved in lots of accidents but the difference is young people have the ability to drive well but choose not to and people 50 and over may want to drive well but physically can't do it so no amount of driving courses will help.

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  • sparro  |  October 25 2012, 10:32AM

    Just a thought, how many deaths are from single vehicle accidents?

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