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Complaint to Dorset Police Authority about Driver awareness course cost

 

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My complaint concerns the overall operations of Dorset Road Safe. However, I have been advised by Adrian Whiting, that it is not possible to complain about Dorset Road Safe, and I must complain to the individual organisations about the individual issues.

 

For information, my overall complaint can be seen on the Dorset Speed website, http://www.dorsetspeed.org.uk/,  24 Nov 2010: Dorset Road Safe finances - serious lack of clarity. You will see that one of the contributing factors is the cost of the Drivers Awareness course, which seems to be escalating out of control, and out of proportion with fairness, inflation, and what the course should actually cost to run per head.

 

 I ask for a clear and reasonable justification for these rises, in particular the rise this year from £70 to £100, and I expect an estimation of the real cost, and a correction of the participants cost close to this, in order that at least one of the reasons that it looks overwhelmingly as though speed cameras are still being used simply to raise money, can be ruled out.

 

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Thank you for your enquiry. 

Reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured on the roads of Dorset is a priority for both the Force and the Police Authority and we are both acutely aware of the personal harm to individuals and the economic cost to society. I believe the Audit Commission has previously identified that the cost to society of an individual killed in a Road Traffic Collision exceeds £1,000,000.

The Driver Awareness Scheme in Dorset helps to educate road users about the dangers of inappropriate speed.  The Scheme is operated by the Force and forms part of the overall strategy to address road safety.  The operation of the course and course fess are reviewed on an annual basis by Dorset Police Authority. 

The course fee was increased from £70 to £100 by the Police Authority during the 2010/11 financial year and in setting that fee, the Police Authority has sought to ensure that the specific level of fee for attending a DAS course, for those choosing to attend, is sufficient not only to cover the direct costs involved but also to make a proportionate contribution to roads policing costs and road safety in Dorset. 

For 2009/10, DAS income was £1,357,000, of which £769,000 related to the costs of course provision.  Dorset Police operates a dedicated road policing unit and the total direct cost of road policing in Dorset is in excess of £7 million a year.   It is estimated that the DAS course at its current level of £100 will produce £1.1 million of income reducing the gross cost of roads policing to a net figure of £5.9 million to be borne by Dorset council tax payers. 

A number of police authorities have set driver awareness course fees at a similar level and the Dorset Police Authority is satisfied that Dorset's fee of £100 has been set at a reasonable level to cover the direct cost involved and to make a proportionate contribution to roads policing and road safety in the County.  We would also like to point out that attendance at a Driver Awareness Course is voluntary and that it is clearly open to those offered a course to choose instead to accept the fixed penalty or to seek disposal through the Courts should they wish.  

Yours sincerely


Martin Goscomb
Chief Executive
Dorset Police Authority

 

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Dear Mr Goscomb,

 

I have to be honest, I was not expecting you to respond along the lines of "oh, it is a bit steep, you're quite right, we'll knock it back to fifty quid".

 

Nonetheless, I am very disappointed with your response.

 

  • You start with reducing deaths and injuries. Do you actually realise how ineffective current speed cameras are at this, and how inadequate proper road policing is? Do you actually realise that thugs and boy racers slow down for cameras then speed up again? It is likely to be the gentlest, slowest, safest of drivers who have never come into conflict with speed limits before, who are mostly being caught now, due to some of the most ridiculous speed limit reductions and enforcements we now have. 
  • If the cost of a death is £1,000,000 (let alone the costs of serious injuries, etc), given the shocking quality of driving (and the death count just in Dorset), do you realise that a single police patrol car, looking for problems, not fine counts, would be more than likely to prevent several deaths a year? Why are the roads not crawling with them? Perhaps they are all making money delivering "driver awareness courses" instead of doing more valuable work on the road? Perhaps it's because most of that £1,000,000 isn't fast cash in the hands of the authorities? 
  • "The Driver Awareness Scheme in Dorset helps to educate road users about the dangers of inappropriate speed." I'm astonished! Not correct following distance, safe overtaking, driving in the rain / snow / ice, correct use of sliproads, observation, concentration, anticipation, lane discipline, respect / tolerance of fellow road users, vehicle safety, risk / hazard recognition, etc, etc, etc. Just speed. Incredible. Did you know, there are other factors? Perhaps, everyone in the police and the council are so dizzy with the cash they are making from cameras like the greed on green, they really have entered into some kind of "speed trance",  perhaps they now really are incapable of thinking of anything else?
  • As far as using course fees for local road safety activities is concerned - are you aware that the previous arrangement that allowed for this (hypothecation) was ended due to the concern about local authorities using cameras to raise money rather than working on reducing accidents? What is your response to Dorset Road Safe giving the impression that funds do not come back to Dorset? Let me guess - you just speak for DPA, not DRS, I expect.
  • I have of course asked FOI for a breakdown of the roads policing cost. The suspicion is however, backed up by the lack of any useful levels of roads policing, that the spend is not being used efficiently. And we are already taxed for policing. You do not have the will of the public who you are meant to serve to be doing what you are doing.
  • Attending the course is certainly not voluntary, what a ridiculous thing to say, it is simply the lesser of 2 evils for many.
  • Other authorities overcharging is not an excuse for Dorset to. "Someone else is doing it as well" is not a defence. And Dorset seems to be at or near the top of the list.
  • Did you know that a significant proportion of these funds are coming from the greed on green camera in Poole, which not even Dorset Road Safe can bring themselves to pretend is about casualty reduction? What is your position on this camera? Let me guess - you just speak for DPA, not DRS, I expect. It would be great if I could find anyone who would actually stand up for this camera, and admit they thought it was a good idea, and that they helped to bring it into effect. But no one will. If the intentions of this were correct, many would be standing up for it. But a challenge only results in "nothing to do with me, I only work for the police", "nothing to do with me, I only work for the council", etc. Come on, ANYONE, in the council / police (or the multitude of other organisations that comprise Dorset Road Safe), tell me you think the greed on green camera is good. Otherwise, SORT THE PROBLEM OUT, shut it down, immediately, and / or increase the limit, and / or provide better signage, etc, etc. It is a complete disgrace that who ever is responsible for the greed on green camera (and as I've said trying to find out who this is, is a bit like trying to nail jelly to a wall) have resorted to such extreme methods to keep the cash rolling in.

 

 

For a potential project I nearly once started with Bournemouth Council, I took about 10 minutes of video at 2 locations, about springtime 2010. I identified about 1 problem every minute: http://www.belchamber.net/movie.wmv

 

This demonstrates a number of things:

  • Whatever the police, DPA, DRS, Council, etc are doing, is totally ineffective when it comes to preventing bad driving
  • If, with a 10 year old Mondeo, a £100 camcorder and a few minutes of free time, and completely untrained, I can detect nearly 1 problem a minute, we are getting extremely bad value for money for the millions spent on road safety in Dorset.
  • The opportunities to introduce productive and effective proper road policing, and the need for it, are staring us in the face but are being ignored.
  • IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT SPEED! And even if it was, a few fixed yellow boxes won't solve it.

 

I'm afraid that it is highly likely that these very serious inadequacies are actually resulting in more of the £1,000,000 deaths than there should be. 

 

I'm sorry, but that leaves nothing of any value in your response.

 

I'd be happy to receive any further comments you (or anyone else) may have. And please can you detail to me the actual true cost of the course and what makes this up.