CRASHES and injuries on Scotland’s roads will increase following the scrapping of police road safety officers, experts have claimed.
The concerns follow a decision taken when Police Scotland was formed to transfer the specialist officers to local authorities or switch them to other duties.
Each of the eight former Scottish forces is understood to have had several officers whose roles included targeting the most at-risk road users, such as motorcyclists and young drivers.
Donald Urquhart, a former Lothian and Borders Police superintendent who is secretary of the Cyclists’ Touring Club Scotland, said: “Road safety is a Cinderella service in the police, yet it is a significant if not a bigger issue than other areas. It is down at the bottom of their list of priorities. Eventually, you will see a significant increase in road crashes.”
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said it was having to fill the gap.
Sandy Allan, its road safety manager for Scotland, said: “Until the advent of Police Scotland, local forces provided a significant focus within road safety education.
“In abdicating the responsibility to local authorities, a real skills and capacity gap appears to have been created, and local authorities have been left in the lurch.”
The concerns are shared by other groups. Keith Irving, head of Living Streets Scotland, which campaigns for pedestrians, said: “Pedestrians are still the most vulnerable road users, accounting for two-thirds of road deaths in built-up areas, which is a poor record compared to our European neighbours.
“We are therefore concerned by any loss in effective road safety capacity, whether it be road safety officers, traffic wardens or other enforcement activities in communities.”
Helene Mauchlen, director of the British Horse Society in Scotland, said: “Our relationship with regional road safety officers has been terribly important to equestrian safety in terms of education, a point of contact and someone to work with while we deliver our riding and road safety test.
“The preventive nature of road policing, especially in terms of vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders – will be missing, and we are all losers if that happens.”
A spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which represents councils, said: “We are disappointed that yet again Police Scotland appears not to be playing their appropriate role in the delivery of community planning outcomes.
“However, councils do take their community safety role very seriously and as always will endeavour to do their very best in this vital area.”
Police Scotland said road safety remained critical.
Superintendent Iain Murray, its head of roads policing, said: “Police Scotland has 14 dedicated divisional road policing units and the lead officer in each plays an active role in local road safety partnerships.
“The provision of road safety education is the responsibility of the local authority. However, Police Scotland continues to lead on national initiatives such as drink and drugs driving, vulnerable road users and motorcycle safety, and also provides support to local initiatives when appropriate.”