Sir Stephen House tells critics to "open your eyes" amid claims motorists are being treated harshly
Scotland’s most senior police officer has told critics of the new national force to “open your eyes” amid claims that motorists are being unfairly targeted.
Police Scotland chief constable Sir Stephen House said the single service was “vigorously” enforcing seatbelt legislation as well as prosecuting those using mobile phones behind the wheel.
However, House insisted officers were still using discretion in a “huge number of cases” on the roads to dish out warnings instead.
The number of road safety offences recorded in the first six months of Police Scotland has risen significantly, leading to claims that drivers are being harshly punished as part of a target-led culture taking hold within the national force.
Police Scotland has repeatedly dismissed suggestions that individual officers are being set targets, though leaders of rank-and-file officers warned last month that officers were feeling under pressure to maintain performance across divisions.
“We want to provide a greater focus than ever on improving road safety,” Sir Stephen told a Holyrood conference. “We have put more resources into officers working on road safety issues. There has been some concern expressed that we are tackling poor driver behaviour too vigorously. To people who say that, I say open your eyes. There are three times as many people dying on the roads in this country as are victims of homicide, three times as many.
“Recent research tells us that the language we’ve all been using for decades now of it’s all about a hard core of bad drivers is not true. It’s all of us. If it was a hard core of bad drivers, then my officers wouldn’t have to enforce the legislation the way that they do. We would be able to target that hard core.”
Between April and September, there were 52,171 speeding offences and 25,451 seatbelt offences. There were also 20,440 mobile phone offences recorded by the single service.
“It is not a hard core – it’s a huge number of us who don’t drive as considerately and as safely as we should do,” added House. “That’s why we are vigorously prosecuting people who use mobile phones when they’re driving because it leads to inattention and it leads to accidents.
“We are vigorously enforcing the seatbelt legislation because it saves lives in accidents. People tell me on a daily basis, ‘well you can’t catch many people [not wearing seatbelts] – everybody wears seatbelts these days’.
“There are tens of thousands of people so far this year since April who have not been wearing their seatbelts and are now being prosecuted because of it. And our officers still use their discretion on a huge number of cases and simply give a warning, but we’re still catching tens of thousands. And tens of thousands of people using mobile phones.
“It’s not a hard core, it’s an awful lot of us out there who aren’t driving as safely and as considerately as we should do.”