Legislation and enforcement

Good traffic law enforcement is essential for road safety. The main objective of traffic policing is safe and efficient flow of traffic, achieved through means of persuasion, prevention, and punishment. Safe behaviour in traffic does not come naturally for most people, but with the right laws in place, behaviour can be changed by traffic law enforcement.

Typical offences relate to speeding, drinking and driving, non-use of seatbelt or child restraints and not wearing a helmet. All of these relate to well-known risk factors, where research has shown that limiting non-compliance will reduce the frequency and severity of road crashes.

Targeted and appropriate legislation that is consistently enforced and well understood by the public is a critical component of successful enforcement. The good practice manuals on helmets and drinking and driving provide good advice on developing laws and give examples. Legislation should be part of an overall enforcement strategy - and good examples are specified in Urban Safety Management: Guidelines for Developing Countries and Police enforcement strategies to reduce traffic casualties in Europe and a strategy for implementation (ETSC).

An appropriate penalty system also needs to be in place. The good practice manual on speed management gives examples of the different methods which can be used, like warning notices and fixed penalties. Fixed penalties can be issued with a written infringement or violation handed out on-the-spot, requiring the offending driver or rider to pay a fine by a specified date. Confiscation of licences or of vehicles can be applied for serious offences. Demerit or black-point systems seek to deter drivers from continuing to re-offend for a range of traffic law related offences. To operate a penalty system effectively, a computerized database is generally needed to record all offences and driver records.

Enforcement of Speed Limits
Setting road speed limits is closely associated with road function and road design. Consult the speed management manual for details. Non-compliance can be measured and dealt with in different ways. Measuring speed can be done by radar, camera or other instruments which measure speed between two points. A single, stationary police vehicle that is visible to drivers will also reduce the average speed. Cameras are highly effective, provided that an accurate and readily accessible vehicle and driver data base is available. Camera systems are relatively expensive to purchase and data equipment is needed to process the data. Speed limiters for heavy goods or public transport vehicles can be introduced as well.

Enforcement of restrictions on Drinking and Driving
Drinking and driving is an issue in many countries and often one of the main causes in road crashes. Effective measures are necessary to reduce alcohol-related crashes and injuries. It is fundamental to establish a legal BAC (blood alcohol concentration) or BrAC (breath alcohol concentration) limit. Upper limits of 0.05 g/dl for the general driving population (a European commission recommendation) and 0.02 g/dl for young drivers and motorcycle riders are considered to be good practice. Random breath testing is carried out in several countries and has subsequently lead to reductions in the number of alcohol related road crashes by up to 20%. The visibility and randomness of the enforcement very much affect and change people's behaviour. For more detail on how to implement a drink drive project please consult the Good practice manual on drinking and driving.

Enforcement of seatbelt use
Seatbelts have saved many lives, however experience shows that mandatory legislation and enforcement are necessary to make people use seatbelts. The cost-benefit ratio of mandatory seat-belt use has been estimated at between 1:3 and 1:8. Obviously you need to have the seatbelts of a certain standard and for them to be fitted into the vehicle before you can use them. Laws requiring this are the first step. It is relatively easy to detect if drivers and passengers are using seatbelts properly, especially if the vehicle is stopped - no measuring equipment is necessary. It increases the wearing rate if the seatbelt checks are repeated randomly and over time.

Enforcement of helmet wearing
Most motorcyclists killed in traffic die from head injuries. Crash helmets of the right standard can substantially reduce the risk of death from head injuries. As for seatbelts, experience shows that legislation and enforcement are necessary to change people's behaviour. Introducing and enforcing helmet laws has been shown to be highly effective in reducing the overall number of road crash fatalities and injuries, especially in Asia where motorcycles sometimes are the most used mean of transport. The helmet good practice manual provides guidance on all aspects of how to put an effective helmet campaign together.

Planning and designing of enforcement campaigns should be based on analysis of crash data - targeted at locations with high crash numbers or focused on unsafe driver behaviour like seatbelts/alcohol impairment. To be able to implement effective campaigns, police forces often need some training in planning effective strategies and to learn how to use modern enforcement equipment such as alcohol testing devices and radar speed meters. Traffic police must be trained in both the technical tasks of policing and in how to set an example for the general public. Traffic policing typical account for 8-10 percent of the total police budget in highly motorised countries, but many low income jurisdictions are struggling with very low budgets. The sector is hampered by generally low salaries and the duties of traffic officers, dealing with fatal and serious road accidents, do not attract many. The ADB road safety guidelines provide more assistance, tools and examples on this aspect.

Often police forces benefit from discussing and exchange experience with other police forces. In Europe a network exists: The TISPOL organisation has been established by the traffic police forces of Europe in order to improve road safety and law enforcement on the roads of Europe. The main priority is to reduce the number of people being killed and seriously injured through enforcement of traffic law and education, where appropriate. They are actively trying to harmonise and coordinate between countries too.

The Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) has recently piloted a programme on professional development of the traffic police in strategic law enforcement and road safety. The aim of the programme is to strengthen the capacity of traffic law enforcement professionals. The overall programme content covers an understanding of the road safety risk factors, how to collect and analyse data to feed into the creation of a policing strategy giving the framework for the traffic police´s operational practice.

GRSP has also published a focus note "Community participation in traffic law enforcement" base on a TRL scoping study, showing how communities can help the police enforce the law through collaboration by changing the general attitude to the risk factors by volunteering, advocating, consultation and making demands for safer roads.

 Case Studies

Key Documents

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