Thames Valley Police is falling “behind” in efforts to tackle fatal and serious crashes in Oxfordshire, the county’s highways chief has said. 

Liberal Democrat Andrew Gant said police action to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on the county’s roads was down compared to other forces.

The cabinet member for transport on Oxfordshire County Council has urged the force to take more action to improve road safety.

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It comes after a spate of fatal crashes in the last month across the county.

Oxford Mail: Andrew Gant Andrew Gant (Image: Ed Nix)

In response, Thames Valley police and crime commissioner Matthew Barber said the council should take its share of responsibility.

He claimed it “lay in the gift” of the highways authority to change the road layout in crash hotspots around the county.

Conservative councillor Liam Walker, of the Hanborough and Minster Lovell division, added that he was “disgusted” with Mr Gant’s attempts to “shirk responsibility” for the crashes.

The dispute comes after the number of people killed or seriously injured on Oxfordshire’s roads rose in 2022 – the first increase for many years.

There have also been seven fatal crashes in 2024 already.

These included a woman in her 40s being killed by a lorry on the M40 on January 21.

And yesterday, the family of Tim Joss, aged 68, paid tribute after the cyclist was fatally knocked off his bike in Brize Norton last Wednesday.

Oxford Mail: Tim Joss Tim Joss (Image: Aesop)At least two pedestrians have also been hospitalised with serious injuries after being hit by cars in the last month.

The tragedies have sparked a road safety debate between councillors, campaigners, and the police.  

In a letter to the police and crime commissioner, Mr Gant said the force needed to step up, claiming “no action is much more expensive than action”.

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He said: “Across Oxfordshire we have seen a general trend in the rise of killed and seriously injured incidences, and recently some particular incidences with cyclist deaths and serious injury, along with single and multiple vehicle collisions.

“Thames Valley Police’s action on road safety appears to be behind what we see from other forces and are hearing from other local authorities.

“I appreciate the size and scale of the force is greater than most, but we need to ensure this doesn’t prevent working at a local level and focus on road safety within Oxfordshire.

“We appreciate that resources are tight, but no action is much more expensive than action.

“Please take action against this rising wave of dangerous driving before we find even worse casualty impacts in 2024.”

Mr Gant called for the force to become more involved in promoting national road safety initiatives.

This included ‘operation snap’ - where the public can report and submit digital footage of offences - and more frequent use of ‘operation close pass’ - where action is taken against drivers who pass cyclists and horse riders too closely.

He also called on Mr Barber and the force to work with the council to implement average speed cameras, particularly on sections of the A34, A40, A420 and A4074, which have all seen crashes in the last few months.

Oxford Mail: Thames Valley police and crime commissioner Matthew Barber has agreed to meet highways chief Andrew GantThames Valley police and crime commissioner Matthew Barber has agreed to meet highways chief Andrew Gant (Image: Natalie Jezzard)

In a letter responding to Mr Gant, which has been seen by the Oxford Times, Conservative Mr Barber said road safety was also the council’s responsibility.

“We all have a role to play in saving lives on our roads,” he said.

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Mr Barber said, despite the rise in 2022, the number of fatal and serious injury crashes across the Thames Valley Police area was below pre-pandemic levels.

He pointed to “significant” police activity to tackle the “fatal four” offences – speeding, drink and drug driving, seatbelt offences, and using a mobile phone behind the wheel – with enforcement and arrests increasing in recent years.

But he said increased enforcement "will not prevent each case", claiming this month’s fatal crashes were “the result of criminal acts such as drink or drug driving”, as well as “medical issues, fallen trees and tragically even suicide”.

Mr Barber said average speed cameras were being considered by the force, as suggested by Mr Gant, but added there were locations where “the most effective way to save lives” was for the council to “look at the road layout”.

“I hope that those improvements, which lie in the gift of Oxfordshire County Council, can be part of our discussion,” he added.

Mr Barber said he had asked his office to set up a meeting with Mr Gant “as soon as we can”.

Mr Gant, whose letter was publicised by the council, has been accused of using the crashes to “score political points”.

Mr Walker, who is shadow highways chief on the council, said: “I think it’s disgusting that Mr Gant is trying to use road deaths as a way to score political points and shirk his responsibility to act as the cabinet member responsible for highways in Oxfordshire.”

His comments were described as “disappointing” by Mr Gant.