Aspiring for Vision Zero in London


By Detective Superintendent Andy Cox, Metropolitan Police

Every death on our roads is tragic and unacceptable and, as the Metropolitan Police lead for Vision Zero, I see first-hand the utter devastation caused by serious and fatal collisions.

Despite significant progress to reduce road danger over the last decade, more can and must be done. The police and all those with a responsibility for managing, operating and enforcing roads must be relentless in our combined efforts to reduce road danger and protect people.

In London, the Vision Zero aspiration is bold; no deaths or serious injuries on London’s roads by 2041, and we need bold partnership action and substantial societal change to make this aspiration reality.

I passionately believe in roads policing and know it has an integral role in saving life, tackling crime and improving public confidence.

All too often the dangerous driver is involved in other forms of criminality; by example, research in London indicates two thirds of uninsured drivers are active in other crime and these drivers pose a 6-7 times higher risk of being involved in a fatal collision. Recognising this criminal link helps ensure policing resource levels are optimised.

Frustratingly, sections of the public criticise roads policing enforcement suggesting it is revenue-raising and traffic officers should instead catch criminals. We need to change this uninformed view and can do so by introducing an extensive communication strategy highlighting the risks to life, links to crime and support of law abiding road users.

The Police can never alone solve road safety issues and must have joined-up collective partnership working. We established a stakeholder forum to facilitate meaningful dialogue between key identified stakeholders by introducing an ‘Independent Advisory Group’ - the first in the country dedicated to road safety. Being transparent and with active engagement, discussions, better informed understanding and decision-making.

Strategic benefits have been realised through joined-up working and increased funding provision. To be effective, roads policing must have an intelligent-led focus on the few rather than the many, by targeting the most risky roads, people and themes.

We introduced a monthly meeting to review emerging threat and risk and task resources accordingly, including the new ‘Road Crime Team’ which has its remit firmly embedded in this methodology.

New operations targeted priority roads, such as the A10 and A12, with considerable enforcement of offences, vehicles seized and arrests made – all accompanied with an extensive communication strategy informing the public why we were there, what we were doing and the results being achieved. This amplified the deterrence and won public confidence.

These roads have had a dramatic reduction in those killed and seriously injured in collisions. We identify and target priority offenders with both a dangerous driving and criminal background. This included an ANPR operation which utilised a bespoke list of offenders.

In 50 deployments the team made over 100 arrests, seized 75 vehicles and recovered weapons, firearms, and drugs.

Speeding is an absolute focus as it is the most prominent cause of fatal and serious crashes. Other themes targeted include the remaining fatal four offences (phone distraction, seatbelt, drink / drug drive) and uninsured driving. We seize, on average, 50 uninsured vehicles per day.

Police cannot be in all places at all times and, when considering the mindset of the driver, the deterrence benefits of Dashcam and Headcam are significant. The driver may believe that no police or speed cameras are present but will know the driver in the vehicle next to them is equally able to help enforce offences. 

In London, we extensively market this process; referral rates doubled and pre-Covid19 were up 400% in 2020 compared to 2018. The enforcement rate is 66% of footage submitted.

Recently London hosted a national Dashcam Conference attended by police leads from around the country. This group will seek improvement and consistency around the UK (London drivers drive elsewhere and vice-versa).

With Covid19 this is a challenging time for policing and none more so than for roads policing. Reduced congestion on roads has sadly led to ‘some’ extreme speeding drivers putting lives at risk.

Such behaviour is totally unacceptable and increases the risk of a serious collision further impacting on the capacity of the NHS and emergency services at this crucial time.

In extreme speed cases there is a clear need for robust enforcement to protect life.

A snapshot of key changes since Lockdown:-

· Road usage down 50-60%

· Average speeds have increased in all speed zones

· 1/3 of roads checked show average speed up by more than 10%

· Average speeds in 20, 40 and 60mph zones are above the speed limit

· Some roads checked show an increase in average speed of more than 50%

· A 20mph road is averaging 40mph

· London has seen a rise in extreme speeds with 151mph the highest but many close to it

· Killed and serious injury collisions have significantly reduced but not the speed-related element of this

· Met Police are processing within 3 working days ‘extreme speeders’ into the Court system

The message detailing speeding as a risk to life with knock-on impacts to the NHS and Covid19 patients has resonated with the public.

We need to utilise this opportunity to amplify the deterrent effect through hard-hitting public communications.

For instance, drink driving is rightly seen as socially unacceptable and people will do all they can to stop the drunk driver taking to the road.

Currently, speeding is not socially unacceptable and speeding drivers go unchecked. We need to change this.

The public must challenge their family, friends and themselves not to speed and, by making speeding socially unacceptable, influence genuine change in driving behaviour and standards.

Outstanding efforts made by roads policing officers has been a key contributing factor in 2019 for London, achieving the lowest ever year on record for the combined measure of killed and serious injury collisions, and in achieving a 17% rise in public perception of likelihood of traffic enforcement.

I believe the strategy can be applied to any part of the UK and be successful.

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