'SAVAGE' police cuts mean officers are catching fewer speeding drivers on one of Oxfordshire's most notorious roads.

Thames Valley Police caught 700 fewer reckless motorists on the A34 across the county last year than in 2017 - a 16 per cent decline.

And the number of people pulled over by officers is down by more than 50 per cent.

The force's roads policing chief told the Oxford Mail the drop is partly explained by a fall in officer numbers in recent years.

He also revealed roads policing units are having to prioritise sections of the road that are of 'significant concern'.


But a road safety charity claims more dangerous drivers are escaping without punishment as a result and has called on the government to invest in traffic policing as a 'national priority'.

James Upton, chief inspector of Thames Valley Police Roads Policing, said the force was doing 'everything' to make the A34 as safe as possible but admitted having fewer officers affected enforcement.

He said: "We've been honest that there has been a change in the numbers of staff deployed.

"That's always going to have an impact on the figures.

"All police forces have had to make some savings.

"With the numbers we've got, we're working as well as we can.

"Police have had to prioritise some of the work and that's no different with roads policing."

Read again: More than 63,000 speeding tickets handed out in a year

Police are targeting speeding hotspots at Wytham, Radley, Kennington and Abingdon North on the A34, but this is just a small section of 25 miles of road.

Statistics provided by the force as part of a freedom of information request showed the number of drivers caught speeding by police-operated mobile camera vans fell from 3,871 in 2017 to 3,253 in 2018 - a 16 per cent drop.

This serves as the majority of speed enforcement, but the number of speeding motorists picked up by officers plunged from 166 in 2017 to 78 in 2018.

'Officer-led' enforcement includes a variety of measures, such as officers following drivers and pulling them over and plain vehicles being deployed.

Mr Upton said roads policing officers still had the same individual workloads, but the overall output has been hit by police restructuring.

This began in 2011 with the creation of the Joint Operations Unit, a collaboration between Hampshire Constabulary and Thames Valley Police, before 'further changes' were made in 2018.

Recent figures showed the force started 2019 with 3,753 officers, 59 below the number it feels it needs, despite recruiting 410 more officers over the last year.

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Samuel Nahk, a spokesperson for the road safety charity Brake, fears the lack of resources is 'putting lives at risk'.

He said: “A law is only as strong as its enforcement and it is vital that speed limits are enforced effectively. Speed limits are set for a reason, safety.

"Drivers who go beyond these limits are behaving dangerously and putting lives at risk.

"With savage police cuts resulting in far fewer officers on our roads enforcing the law, this heightens the chance of dangerous speeding drivers not being caught.

"We call on the Government to invest in road traffic policing as a national priority to provide the police with the resources they need to tackle the menace of speeding on our roads.”

In addition to day-to-day enforcement, police hold operations throughout the year targeting the 'fatal four': impaired driving, speeding, mobile phones and seatbelts.

The chief inspector admitted resources were stretched, but insisted officers were out patrolling 'every single day'.

He said: "In Oxfordshire we look at those areas with significant concern.

"We want to deploy our resources where they have the most effect. We aren't picking a location out of thin air."

He added: "We've got the ability to look at driver behaviour.

"If another area had a real resurgence in increased speed, we can be on the front foot to deal with it."

Another freedom of information request showed police attended 90 road traffic collisions on the A34 in Oxfordshire in 2018, compared to 110 the previous year, but speeding remains a problem.

Last year, the Oxford Mail revealed officers using a speed gun along the A34 at Wytham caught 2,507 people driving over 50mph between July 1, 2017 and June 28, 2018.

Speed cameras are located at eight points of the A34 between Chilton and the M40, but in the same period cameras at Kidlington, Weston on the Green and Chilton failed to catch a single driver.

Read again: The 56 locations in Oxfordshire that failed to catch a single speeding driver in a whole year

Eynsham resident Nicci Saunders became an ambassador for Brake after her partner, Joe Wilkins, was hit and killed by a dangerous driver in Appleton, near Abingdon, in 2012.

Ms Saunders has sympathy with police, but admitted she was worried reckless motorists were getting away with speeding.

She said: "I do appreciate it’s not police's fault that they are not out there all the time.

"There are quite a few areas of the A34 that have had a lot of accidents, so I would think these would be a priority over other areas to try to stop accidents.

"It’s really difficult to say whether the change is due to less speeding or fewer police - I would love to think that it is due to less speeding."