Roads Policing: Not optional - An inspection of roads policing in England and Wales

Published on: 15 July 2020


Before 2013 there were sustained reductions in road deaths in England and Wales. Since then the number of road deaths has levelled off and there are signs of an upturn. Yet, we found that the importance of roads policing has been in decline for some years. There has been less enforcement of drink/drug driving and not wearing seatbelts, with an increase in deaths attributed to these offences.

Roads policing has evolved from ‘traffic officers’ who were mainly focused on enforcement of road traffic legislation, and dealing with road traffic collisions, to a wider concept of policing the roads. This includes the use of roads policing resources to target criminals who use the road network for their criminal purpose.

In this inspection, we examined how effectively the road network of England and Wales is policed. We sought to establish:

  • are national and local roads policing strategies effective?;
  • does capability and capacity match demand?;
  • do the police engage effectively with the public and partners?; and
  • how well police officers are trained to deal with roads policing matters?

We have made 13 recommendations to improve the effectiveness of roads policing in England and Wales.

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Roads Policing: Not optional – An inspection of roads policing in England and Wales (PDF document)

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Better roads policing needed to prevent increase in deaths


In March 2020 we suspended our inspection activity to enable forces and fire and rescue services to focus on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. We deferred this report’s publication as part of this suspension. HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Thomas Winsor comments in detail on this as part of his annual assessment of policing, published on 2 July 2020. Our findings in this report are based on evidence we collected before the pandemic was declared. Care should be taken if seeking to make links between our findings and police performance during the lockdown.

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Dorset PCC’s response

Durham PCC’s response

Gwent PCC’s response (PDF document)

Merseyside PCC’s response (PDF document)

Metropolitan PCC’s response

Nottinghamshire PCC’s response (PDF document)

Staffordshire PCC’s response (PDF document)

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Surrey PCC’s response

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