The number of dedicated roads policing officers on UK roads fell by 27% between 2010 and 2015, new data released by the Home Office reveals.
The data shows that, outside London, there were 3,901 traffic officers on the roads last year – 1,437 fewer than in 2010.
That number dropped by 352 between 2014 and 2015, with West Yorkshire accounting for a reduction of 91 specialist officers.
The RAC’s head of external affairs Pete Williams said: “Overall, these figures make for grim reading and are likely to be met with dismay by law-abiding motorists.
“While some of the numbers may be explained by organisational changes, such as officers taking on multiple roles and police forces working in partnership to tackle crime, the data still clearly shows that a majority of forces have seen a further fall in the number of officers whose primary responsibility is tackling crime on our roads.”
Avon and Somerset witnessed a fall of 34 traffic officers (a 35% drop) in 2015, while Northamptonshire saw traffic cop numbers fall by 36% (21 officers).
Interestingly, Essex claimed a near-doubling of officers (up 72 to 148 officers) – presumably explaining why the area boasts the most careless driving convictions – while Devon and Cornwall reported 31 more officers (up from 57) and Cheshire 30 more (up from 89).
A recent RAC Report on Motoring found that enforcement of the law and the behaviour of other motorists are two of the biggest concerns among drivers. 62% said there are not enough police on the roads to enforce existing laws.
Williams added: “These findings also beg the question whether forces are increasingly turning to technology to enforce the law. Fixed speed cameras are a common sight on many roads, including on the hundreds of miles of highway being upgraded to smart motorways.
“The majority of motoring laws that exist to make our roads safer still rely on a physical officer present to either apply the law, or deter drivers from committing an offence in the first place.”
Recent new laws such as a ban on smoking in cars containing children and instant penalties for lane-hogging cannot be policed using technology such as roadside cameras.