More traffic police to patrol Plymouth roads
DRIVERS have been warned to slow down as extra traffic police take to the roads of Devon and Cornwall.
"The public have got used to seeing fewer police on the roads and we have seen speeding going up," Devon and Cornwall Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer said yesterday.
Now an extra 22 officers have been transferred to traffic duties, and armed response vehicles are also being given a traffic role, Mr Sawyer told the Police and Crime Panel, meeting in Plymouth yesterday.
The panel, made up of councillors and representatives from across the two counties and the Isles of Scilly, oversees the work of the Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg.
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Mr Hogg was elected last November  on a pledge to tackle unnecessary delays caused by road accident investigations and yesterday Mr Sawyer was called in front of the panel to explain the delays that frustrate motorists.
He said that in 2012/13 some 69 people died on the roads of Devon and Cornwall, and 554 suffered injuries, and called on the public to do their bit in preventing accidents.
"The big thing we can do is to educate the public. The best way to reduce the impact is for drivers to drive sensibly.
"I will do more with officers' visibility and enforcement, but it's up to the public to do their bit," he said.
Roads closed because of accidents cost British businesses about £16billion a year, Mr Sawyer said.
But he defended the police role in dealing with accidents. A minor collision could close a road for up to three hours, and a fatality meant delays of five to seven hours, he said.
In many cases, police have to treat an accident as a crime scene.
"This isn't about the police sitting around doing nothing. This is no different from if there's a homicide in the street."
But Mr Sawyer said that in most incidents the road was blocked rather than closed by the police.
He gave the example of a lorry which broke down outside Plymouth in 2002, resulting in the A38 being closed for 11 hours.
The knock-on impact included a cancelled flight from Bristol Airport because the air crew couldn't get through.
Some of the delay was because of police work, Mr Sawyer said. But much of it – including the need for two cranes to recover the lorry – were not under the police's control.
"Plymouth was cut off, but there was nothing we could do about it."
Any closure of Devon and Cornwall's three arterial roads – the M5, A38 and A30 – "has a huge impact, particularly in the summer", he said.
Although the force has invested in some new equipment, he said technology was not the full answer.
But he promised that he would never follow the example of some police forces around the world.
"I am sure you know of countries where coffins and bodies are left by the roadside so the road can be reopened quickly. That will never happen here," he said.
And he insisted that the police used road traffic enforcement laws to keep the roads moving and not as a revenue-raiser.
'Volunteers needed to man police stations' – Page 15