Police cuts lead rise in antisocial motoring habits

A driver using a mobile phone and smoking while waiting at traffic lights in London.

Careless driving could be on the up due to a lack of traffic cops, a study has found. Research by the AA discovered that two thirds of drivers thought they could get away with careless motoring offences, including middle-lane hogging, eating at the wheel and tailgating.

These drivers felt there was 'no visible presence of police on local roads', leading to a sense of security when driving carelessly. Careless driving offences usually carry a £100 fine and three penalty points, but the subjective nature means they cannot be enforced by cameras and require a physical police presence.

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The conclusions come following a large drop in the numbers of traffic cops. Research last year found that permanent traffic officer numbers had been reduced by a third over the last decade – from 3,766 in 2007 to 2,643 in 2017.

These numbers were reflected by public opinion in the survey. Of 19,000 respondents, 65 per cent felt there was no presence on local roads, while 43 per cent also felt there was a lack of police on motorways.

Because of this, more than half of drivers believed they could get away with driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition or using a mobile phone at the wheel, while just under half said that failing to wear a seatbelt was remain unpunished.

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: "It is worrying that drivers feel that a lack of police officers on the roads means they think they can get away with careless driving and other serious motoring offences... Big Brother can only do so much; we need more cops in cars."

And motorists aren't keen to hand over police powers to other groups, either. Only 45 per cent of respondents said they wanted Highways England traffic safety officers to receive greater powers, while only 32 per cent felt community support officers should gain new privileges.

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