#Policing Close Shaves on A Grand Day Out

Wallace & GromitOn a bright spring Sunday afternoon there is probably no better time to write this post. It’s definitely the day fo a ‘Grand Day Out’ on a motorcycle but it’s also one that many in policing, and the remainder of the emergency services, often view with an element of dread. How many more motorcyclists will be killed or seriously injured today?

Like many others who enjoy motorcycles, Wallace & Gromit like their rides out. Hopefully they know how to enjoy the Dales and Moors of North Yorkshire safely, it’s a wonderful and exhilarating experience…a grand day out. But no biker wants that day out to turn into a close shave…or worse, do they?

That may be a somewhat frivolous start to a serious matter however; it’s also partly indicative of some of the comedy of errors involved in policing today but let’s move on to the main point of this post.

NYP - Bikers GuideMotorcycling deaths in the county are increasing. Over the last 10 years, 155 bikers have been killed and 1,170 seriously injured on the roads of North Yorkshire. As if that isn’t bad enough, statistics are showing that this worrying issue is actually getting worse.

Motorcycling is increasingly popular and where better to ride than the scenic roads of North Yorkshire? That’s a thought which many riders clearly have, it also makes it a contributory factor to the increasing number of bikers who have been killed or seriously injured (KSI) on our roads in recent years.

In 2012 there were five biker deaths but last year the figure rose to 15. The figures show that those bikers most likely to be involved in a collision are men aged between 40 and 59, who ride sports bikes over 500cc. Many of these collisions are unfortunately, down to simple human error on the part of the motorcyclist.

Huge leap in North Yorkshire biker deaths: Last year saw a 30 per cent increase in motorcycling on the county’s roads – but there was also a 200 per cent increase in the number of bikers killed in crashes…(northernecho.co.uk)

The well-known factors impacting on these worrying figures, not least the amount of ‘mid-life crisis’ bikers returning to motorcycling later in life, often without the necessary skills needed to handle a modern powerful machine have been identified. Without doubt, North Yorkshire Police are working hard to ‘educate’ the motorcycling public. It’s an important part of the ‘preventative’ role that exists in effective British policing.

Figures show that 70 per cent of collisions involving motorcyclists on the county’s roads were caused by the biker making a mistake, rather than car drivers or other factors. Many were the result of poor overtaking, taking the wrong line through bends or late and harsh braking…(North Yorkshire Police)

North Yorkshire Police have produced a new biker’s guide to the county. It’s designed to highlight where and how crashes have happened. It provides advice and information about improving rider’s skills and importantly, also provides some useful facts about choosing helmets and other safety gear.

But there is also another important factor at play here and it’s one which rarely gets a mention. It isn’t acknowledged, or is conveniently ignored, mostly for politically motivated reasons.  Senior police leaders, and consequently politicians, also tend to write it off because they can’t actually ‘measure’ it’s impact. But in my view, it’s still relevent all the same.

My particular interest here is obviously the policing aspect of the story, as opposed to any of the motorcycling specifics. The police (and their emergency service ‘partners’) are the ones who have to deal with the aftermath when things go wrong on your Grand Day Out. Right across the board of public protection, the provision and standards of service quality are in decline, despite what the organisational leadership and politicians tell you.

The little-mentioned factor that I refer to here is ‘visible’ policing. Massive reductions in police officer numbers throughout England and Wales have taken place over recent years and now, we’re starting to see some of those negative impacts more clearly. Reductions in specialist posts like Roads Policing, have borne the brunt of many of the so-called austerity driven reforms to the policing we receive today. North Yorkshire hasn’t escaped this decline in visible policing.

The “primary aim of an efficient police” is prevention – before detection, it’s also a well-known fact that prevention is usually better than cure. ‘High visibility policing’ has always been a significant factor in that ‘prevention’ process. It’s also something the public regularity ask for but rarely receive these days, save for token effort ‘special’ operations.

Routine high visibility policing, especially traffic police patrols , although a relatively un-measurable factor in statistical terms, are a necessary but unfortunately expensive commodity in effective policing. Visible policing is also something that the public rarely sees today, despite what police leadership will have us believe.

Based upon my personal knowledge and many years of policing experience, this simply isn’t true. Without going into specifics for obvious reasons, marked police traffic patrols within North Yorkshire have been substantially reduced over the last twenty or so years. The availability of both proactive and reactive roads policing units has been in serious decline for some time now, despite obvious increased demand. By my calculations that reduction equates to a figure well in excess of 50% over the last twenty years.

There are less patrols available to influence and react to rider/driver behaviour. There are less qualified and experienced roads policing officers, the resources required and available to deal with the aftermath of a serious collision. The nature of post-collision investigation is by necessity resource and labour intensive. Either demand profiles haven’t been assessed correctly or, there’s been some serious miscalculation in the risk assessment process.

Despite cuts being refered to as ‘reform’ backed up by ‘radical’ and ‘necessary’ qualifiers by most politicians and the majority of senior police leadership, cuts are still cuts. Working ‘smarter’ and doing “more with less” is the common mantra of the day and, to a certain extent, it’s possible. The explainations for reductions in service usually come from those with vested interests in protecting their personal gravy trains… the politicians and senior police leaders.

Our society is actually paying for the cost of all this poor management and self-preservation in leadership. For some there may also be the realisation of paying the ultimate price. Are we prepared to continue financing these costs? Are we prepared to accept the continued reduction in the quality of our public services, for the benefit of the few?

Have a safe grand day outWhatever your personal opinions about all of this; here’s hoping you enjoy your Grand Day Out Safely!


Note: A Close Shave is a 1995 ‘stop motion’ animated short film directed by Nick Park at Aardman Animations in Bristol, featuring his characters Wallace and Gromit. It was his third half-hour short featuring the eccentric inventor Wallace and his quiet but intelligent dog Gromit, following 1989’s A Grand Day Out, and 1993’s The Wrong Trousers…(See Wikipedia)

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