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Last Updated: Friday, 24 June, 2005, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
Tougher police speed rules sought
Police car generic
Officers need to pursue offenders, police chiefs say
Campaigners have demanded tougher guidelines on police driving as figures show a 60% rise in deaths and injuries in crashes involving officers.

They have called for police cars to use directional sirens, as well as better training and risk assessment standards.

But the Home Office, which defended high-speed pursuits, said: "Emergencies do call for an urgent response".

Police collisions led to more than 2,000 casualties in England and Wales in 2003-4 and 31 deaths.

HAVE YOUR SAY
We should restrict potentially lethal, fast, blue-flashing-light chases to those officers who have been properly trained
Tim Watkins, Cardiff, Wales

That was 700 casualties more than in the previous year, while the number of deaths rose by 11.

Despite stressing that the pursuits would remain common practice, a Home Office spokesman said "everything possible" should be done to minimise the dangers involved.

The figures were revealed in a Parliamentary answer by Home Office minister Hazel Blears.

It emerged that six people were killed in crashes with Greater Manchester Police, which was the largest number of deaths involving any of the forces.

A total of 71 people were injured there - nine of them seriously - which is down from 83 a year earlier, when there were four deaths and five serious injuries.

DEATHS AND INJURIES 2003-4
Accidents that involved members of Thames Valley Police led to 135 casualties
Avon and Somerset officers were involved in collisions that caused 82 casualties
Dyfed-Powys maintained its clean record of crash injuries
In total, 71 people were injured in crashes with Greater Manchester police
Three people, out of 84 casualties, were killed in crashes with Merseyside Police

The Metropolitan Police was involved in the highest number of injury-causing incidents, with 625 casualties.

Zoe Stowe, chair of motoring charity Roadpeace, said: "Despite a number of reports following which guidelines were set down, it would appear that tougher guidelines are needed and closer monitoring to ensure they are followed."

And Heather Mills McCartney, whose left leg was severed below the knee when she was hit by a police motorcycle in 1993, called for mandatory directional sirens on police cars.

Directional sirens

She said: "It is often the case that people have a problem telling which direction a siren is coming from and sometimes police cars do not turn their sirens on at all."

The wife of former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney added: "It seems that the police force are changing slowly to directional sirens but obviously cost is an issue."

The most serious police crashes are investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Mary Williams, chief executive of the road safety campaign Brake, has urged the body to launch an immediate inquiry into the "disturbing" increase.

Officers have to speed and go through red lights but they must not take unacceptable risks
IPCC Chairman Nick Hardwick

IPCC Chairman Nick Hardwick said: "These figures are disturbing and some hard questions need to be asked about the quality of police driving across the country, the risk assessments that are carried out before pursuits take place, and the back-up that drivers get from their control rooms."

"We think there must be some sort of legislation put in place because we see other emergency vehicles using the roads quite safely."

He added: "We need to remember that... when we dial 999 we want the police to get there quickly and there is a risk involved in that."

But he added: "Officers have to speed and go through red lights but they must not take unacceptable risks, either for themselves or the public."

The Home Office said Acpo recognised the need to reduce collisions and that its new guidance should "reassure the public that the police are addressing the issues".


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch scenes from a high speed pursuit




SEE ALSO:
Life after a police crash
24 Jun 05 |  UK


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