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7 March, 2016

Road safety – you said, I did

Without doubt, one of the most common issues raised with me, be it on the doorstep, when I’m on the radio, via email and letter and at public meetings or surgeries, is road safety. Most often speeding in towns and villages, sometimes loud motorcycles in our rural areas, problematic parking, drivers using mobile phones, unsafe overtaking. The list goes on.

In addition, when I asked about your priorities in the Harrogate area for the Police and Crime Plan, road safety was towards the top of your list. So to test the waters across North Yorkshire, I ran a road safety survey in 2014. The results were stark. You can visit my website for the full breakdown of the results, but of the 2,500 people who completed the survey, 80 percent were concerned about road safety and 72 percent believed that more needed to be done.

On the other side of the argument, I fully recognise that some people feel equally strongly that targeting drivers is an easy way for the police to make money. This view has been reinforced by Police and Crime Commissioners in cash-strapped force areas such as Bedfordshire blatantly trying to do so.

My recent announcements on road safety – in particular six more safety camera vans – will therefore be very welcome in some quarters and lambasted in others.

These new vans however will be different to the others and will be deployed differently, with a strong emphasis on helping rural communities. The new vehicles will be smaller and more agile, which makes them especially suitable for deployment in rural locations. At present, the existing fleet cannot be used on many country roads because they require a certain amount of hard-standing to be stationed safely. This is less of a requirement for the new smaller vehicles, and as a result, more communities will be able to benefit from their positive impact. I am particularly keen that sites of ‘community concern’ get more of a service, as these are areas where local people have specifically asked for help.

The new vans will also be equipped with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology. So, not only will the vehicles tackle speeding, and mobile phone use for example, but also keep a keen eye on any cross-border criminality, which is a significant issue in many rural communities. Two birds, with one stone.

We also do well to remember that North Yorkshire has one of the highest killed and serious injury rates in the country. These vehicles can help us continue to reduce the numbers, which have dropped by around a third since 2010 when safety camera vans were first piloted. Sadly 33 people still lost their lives on our roads in 2015. An improvement on 50 who lost their lives on 2010, but still 33 too many. I am committed to improving road safety in North Yorkshire, and I am confident these vehicles have played a key part in keeping people safer on our roads.

To return to the thorny issue of the money, for I receive many emails about this too. The police receive about £30 from each speed awareness course attended by a North Yorkshire driver. This money pays to run the vans, which are manned by police staff and not police officers. Taking this into account, last year there was a surplus of about £164,000. Contrary to popular belief, this money is not used to prop up the force’s finances, but goes on supporting road safety initiatives. To try and bust some myths I publish an Annual Report on the vehicles, the first of which released recently. There will be one each year that details the exact locations of the vehicles, the money raised, what it was spent on and how many violations have been recorded.

As well as paying for themselves, the funding from the vans supports a range of schemes, such as educating local primary school children on road safety, additional road safety equipment and the new volunteer-led ‘community speed watch’ scheme. This is an educational rather than enforcement programme, which gives local people the chance to get involved and make a difference in their community. If you’d like more information, please go my website; just google Julia Mulligan, and please do get in touch with our views as they are always welcome.