Road deaths rise and speeding fines fall after traffic unit patrols are axed
Motorists in Devon and Cornwall have been hit with fewer speeding fines since a controversial decision was made to cut the number of traffic officers.
Westcountry drivers paid out less than £1 million in fines for exceeding the speed limit last year, after Devon and Cornwall Police axed its dedicated patrol officers.
Concerns have been raised that the region's roads have become more dangerous, following recent figures which revealed a spike in the number of fatal accidents so far this year.
The latest figures obtained by the Western Morning News revealed fine revenues were at their lowest for the past decade.
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Sergeant Nigel Rabbits, chairman of the Police Federation in Devon and Cornwall, questioned whether the reduced enforcement had made the roads "less safe".
"The pattern is reflective of less police being on the roads. The drastic cuts have definitely impacted officers' ability to deal with speeding.
"Those who were in the road policing unit have been diverted to other jobs, and do not have the time to monitor traffic."
Fears over safety on the roads have been heightened after it was recently revealed the fatal accident rate had risen. Some 32 deaths occurred on the roads of Devon and Cornwall in the first six months of this year, compared with a 12-month average of 50 deaths in the past two years.
Statistics released under the Freedom of Information Act showed 15,921 fixed penalty notices were issued for motoring offences in 2010-11. That compares with 19,866 tickets issued in the previous year and some 53,204 in 2004-05.
Speeding drivers paid out £955,260 in fines, which represents a rapid decline from the £3.2 million they were hit with seven years ago.
Devon and Cornwall Police has said there are no plans to reintroduce its dedicated traffic unit. Inspector Richard Pryce, force lead for Devon and Cornwall's road policing, said: "In recent years drivers are attending speed awareness courses instead of getting points on their licenses.
"The technology to enforce road safety is the same, but the disposal methods have changed in response to the Government's agenda."
Brake, the road safety charity, said it was "very concerned" that lower levels of enforcement were "making roads more dangerous".
A spokesman said: "Reduced enforcement encourages drivers to take needless risks, which can only lead to more injuries and deaths."
Keat Peat, the Association of British Drivers' regional co-ordinator, said arguments about speed cameras reducing the number of accidents were "nonsense".
He added: "Speed cameras are about making money, not saving lives."
The TaxPayers' Alliance said lower fines were "not a bad thing" because of "little real evidence" of speed camera effectiveness.