Somerset people want higher speeding penalties – apparently

A national survey by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioner (APCC) has concluded that people want change. Apparently you would like to see the introduction of higher speeding penalties. However the quid pro quo, is that you want to see that money invested in enforcement and road safety.

This morning we received a press release from PCC Sue Mountstevens titled Local people want higher speeding penalties. In it she welcomed the poll saying “I would like to thank all the local people who took part in the survey. I know road safety is a real concern for communities who want to be able to enjoy their neighbourhoods while keeping their loved ones safe.

She had certainly encouraged local people to take part. It is admirable to want to hear the public’s voice.

However our PCC has in the past used surveys like this to inform policing priorities. Which in many ways is a laudable aim. The problem is they tend to get a miniscule response. But the conclusions drawn from the surveys is having a major influence on policy.

This is a case in point. We are told that:

  • 70% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that fixed penalty notices for road traffic offences should be increased. Ideally with fines of £100 being doubled.
  • 88% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that some of the money raised should be reinvested in enforcement and road safety measures
  • 78% said they saw road traffic offences on a daily or weekly basis.

What we are then told is that just 66,266 people responded nationally. That’s a tiny fraction of the UK’s 66.6m population. There are no figures for responses by police force. So to conclude that this is a representative view of the population is dangerous. People who respond to surveys tend to be self selecting. It is unlikely to that this will be a statistically significant survey.

And as to people in Avon & Somerset. We simply don’t know if their views are more or less in line with those of other Police Forces around the country.

To be clear, The Leveller® is not suggesting the Police are wrong in wanting to crack down on speeding. Any more than we would object to more money being put into enforcement and road safety. These are fine ideas.

However…. We do suggest that policing by survey is dangerous. Drawing conclusions from the expressed wishes of a tiny sample of the population is unhelpful. A clear finding from a tiny sample of the population can be meaningful (it is how opinion polls are conducted – though that may be leading with the chin). But only if the sample is chosen from a cross section of society. Only if it is chosen to ensure a statistically significant outcome.

Simply chucking out a survey and seeing who responds is none of those things.

3 comments

  • Was I was being naïve when I thought that is was good to see the Avon & Somerset’s PCC promoting a survey on local policing? But, no, not her idea, just some faceless bureaucrat’s.
    Didn’t Somerset residents have significant responses on crime in general (if traffic offences are now crime, then “non motoring crime”)?
    I had a quick look at the A&S PCC website to see if there was any detail on the results and found the following quote from our PCC on a survey that closes tomorrow, 7 October:
    We need you to let us know what you think about how you and your community is policed, what the police service does well, and what we can tell them to improve.”
    Do these words sound familiar? they were quoted in the article in The Leveller on 10 September where she was asking us to complete that survey.
    Reverting to traffic offences, I’d prefer to see more effort expended on identifying and seizing vehicles without current insurance and (if applicable) MOT, but that requires physical police whilst speeding offenders just drive past the camera and can be pursued, without discretion, by civilian employees.

  • Well, you obviously don”t live on a road where the traffic, a lot of it heavy vehicles, constantly breaks the 30 mph speed limit. I live on Picts Hill LANGPORT and the traffic is a nightmare! Occasionally there is a mobile camera but that only slows the traffic temporarily. I am, therefore, in total agreement with the idea of increasing the penalties.

    • Whatever the rights and wrongs of this, I can absolutely validate everything you say about Picts Hill. Not just the speeding, but the fact motorists seem unable to realise it is a blind summit and that it might be a good idea to slow down, not accelerate.

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