LETTER : Safety record of high-speed police

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The Independent Online
From Mr P. Manning

Sir: One death caused by a police vehicle is one too many but there are several points I would like to clarify concerning your article "Training cuts behind rise in police car accident injuries" (9 May).

You state that in 1994, 855 civilians were hurt in accidents involving police cars - the correct figure was, in fact, 321, a decrease of 12 per cent on the 1993 figure. Sixty per cent of injuries in 1994 were to police officers. Further, in nine of the 10 civilian fatalities, the police car was not directly involved in the accident. Statistics show an 8 per cent reduction in accidents involving police vehicles since 1991.

There are three classifications of driving in the Metropolitan Police: Advanced, Response and Basic. The Advanced Driver's course lasts four weeks and an important part of the course is training drivers to deal with pursuits. The three-week course you refer to is for Response Drivers. It teaches response and defensive driving techniques. A Response car is not a "powerful car", but is generally a 1.4 Vauxhall Astra equipped with a siren and blue light.

If there is an emergency to which a police car is called, there are enough Response Drivers available to answer those calls. If the incident is a pursuit, an Advanced Driver takes over as soon as possible. Driver training is provided to meet these needs. In some areas, for example south- west London, training has increased. All possible measures are taken to maintain safety while ensuring that the people of London benefit from a speedy and reliable service.

The suggestion that it is cheaper to have accidents than to train drivers is wrong, and not borne out by the figures. Driver training costs £2.4m annually, whereas the cost of repair to vehicles is £4m. Between 1991 and 1994, there has been a 40 per cent increase in mileage driven by the Metropolitan Police. The current figure is 78 million miles a year - or eight times round the world every day.

Our primary concern is to maximise safety, rather than mere budgetary considerations We will not compromise on this.

Yours sincerely,

P. MANNING

Assistant Commissioner

(South West)

Metropolitan Police

New Scotland Yard

London, SW1

12 May

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