PACTS Research Project – ‘Roads policing and its contribution to road safety’

PACTS Research Project – ‘Roads policing and its contribution to road safety’

In May 2019, PACTS was awarded a grant from GEM Road Safety Charity to undertake research into roads policing and its contribution to road safety. AlcoSense has also agreed to contribute to the project.


Road deaths in the UK have not declined since 2010. During this period, levels of roads policing (officer numbers, enforcement activity etc.) have declined substantially– with the exception of automatic speed cameras.

In response to a Parliamentary question to the then policing minister Brandon Lewis, it was revealed that the total number of specialist roads officers across all 43 forces fell from 5,634 in 2010 to 4,934 in 2016, with some forces seeing cuts to roads police officers of up to 74% between the years 2015 to 2016.

The number of driving offences has also fallen. The number of fix penalty notices (FPNs) issued for driving offences (excluding speeding) has reduced significantly over the past few years. Whether this is due to a reduction in levels of road policing or a change in driver behaviour (compliance) is unclear. However, since 2013, there has been no significant reduction in road fatalities related to injudicious action.

Enforcement of traffic laws has long been seen as one of the fundamental “Three E’s” of road safety – education, engineering and enforcement. There is widespread concern that reductions in UK roads policing are having a negative impact on road safety. However, the evidence base for the relationship between the two is not clear.

Whereas the evidence that improving the safety standards of vehicles and road infrastructure appears conclusive, there is a lack of clarity in relation to the current debate on enforcement. This is detrimental to road safety.


PACTS has set four main research objectives, upon which the research question will be based. The research objectives are to:

  1. Collate and review research evidence for a relationship between enforcement activity, driver behaviour and road casualties.
  2. Collate and assess trends in levels of road policing activity and enforcement actions.
  3. Examine evidence for a relationship between roads policing trends and trends in road casualties, in dangerous driving behaviour and in relevant contributory factors.
  4. Investigate how, under realistic policy and resource scenarios, roads policing and associated enforcement activity could be undertaken more effectively.

The report will include the following:

  • A review of key literature on the evidence for links between enforcement, driver behaviour and road casualties. This will be guided by members of RPAN and advisory panel members.
  • Collation and presentation of key statistics on trends in roads policing, driver behaviour and road casualties. The aim will be to present selective, key, robust data that is pertinent to the research; not to produce comprehensive data which is already available.
  • PACTS will establish an Advisory Panel to advise on
    • lines of inquiry and additional contacts
    • data and research
    • roads policing issues
    • policing policy, tactics future strategy
    • research conclusions and recommendations.
  • Interviews with key stakeholders in order to capture their views on
    • roads policing and the possible relationship between levels and nature of roads policing, casualties and dangerous driving offences;
    • Innovation, trends and opportunities for improvement in the effectiveness of roads policing.

PACTS will publish a report on its findings and recommendations in December 2019. The report will seek to provide a clear, accessible account of the evidence, trends and emerging policing practice. It will focus on policy implications. It is not intended to be a comprehensive account of the issues, literature or statistics.

The research will be undertaken in-house by PACTS. It will be led by Frank Norbury, Policy & Research Officer, and overseen by David Davies, Executive Director.

If you would like any further details, please contact Frank Norbury via email (

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