Page last updated at 15:30 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

'Frightening' drivers face action

Traffic on the M4
Traffic congestion costs Wales 600m a year, the report says

Changes to the way Wales' main roads are policed could help cut congestion and bad driving, North Wales Police's chief constable says.

Richard Brunstrom said there was an "appalling macho culture" on roads and he wanted to tackle "annoying and frightening" driving.

Mr Brunstrom also says Wales' geography means it is "uniquely vulnerable" to queues and delays on its main roads.

He wants more 20mph limits and to crack down on drivers using hand-held phones.

Mr Brunstrom also admitted police have been "slow to recognise" the economic impact of time taken to clear crashes and breakdowns.

He gave evidence to the assembly's enterprise committee and said he wants to use anti-social behaviour legislation to tackle bad driving, including tail-gating and racing on highways.

But he said police had not talked of "using Asbos on the road".

"Our intention is to tackle observed anti-social driving such as people driving using mobile phones," he told AMs.

"I don't think we have ever been granted Asbos for bad driving, but there is no reason why it couldn't be. I do not want to give the impression we would throw Asbos around but there is a need for us to be visually present (in) tackling anti-social behaviour."

Asked by Christine Chapman,AM, about the macho driving culture of people like Jeremy Clarkson not helping, he replied: "I agree with everything you are saying.

"We need to get rid of that appalling macho culture. Education is fundamental."

Mr Brunstrom said he wanted more use of 20mph speed limits, as in Scotland, and "speed over distance" cameras, which were used in Northern Ireland.

"We don't use them in Wales and we should - particularly on fragile networks like the M4 in south Wales" he said.

He told the committee he had had conversations with the deputy first minister and that the cameras would "calm" traffic.

He wants closer partnerships between all the emergency services and the assembly government could help and anti-social behaviour must be targeted.

Richard Brunstrom
We will target this behaviour, and apply the new anti-social behaviour legislation to the full
Richard Brunstrom, North Wales Police chief constable

Mr Brunstrom, who is the road policing lead officer for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Wales, said dealing with incidents on the roads "could be dealt with better".

"I think there's a dawning recognition now across the whole of the public sector - and I include the Welsh Assembly Government in this - that we really do need to sharpen our act up particularly with incident management," he told BBC Radio Wales.

"And when I say we I include the police in that.

"We have perhaps been slow to recognise the economic disadvantage caused by congestion and that can we find quicker ways of solving incidents so that the evidence is collected, people are kept safe and the road is reopened more swiftly."

He said an idea currently being piloted is to use police powers to ensure recovery vehicles reach broken-down cars on dual carriageways which do not have an emergency lane within about 10 minutes.

"Previously it's been taking 45 minutes to an hour, he said.

"That's a huge safety benefit and it dramatically reduces the congestion."

He said anti-social behaviour on the roads would also be better targeted.

"Anti-social behaviour is all too prevalent on our roads, and can be annoying and frightening - examples are close following at high speed, use of the highways for racing, misuse of residential streets and the like," he said.

"We will target this behaviour, and apply the new anti-social behaviour legislation to the full to tackle this persistent problem more effectively."

He has identified a number of other ways in which improvements could be made, including integrated decision making, the use of new technology and joint planning of maintenance work.

A report published in January by the transport alliance, Sewta, found traffic congestion cost Wales 600m each year.

Kevin Barry of South Wales Fire and Rescue also gave evidence to the committee and warned the recession may lead to people spending less money on keeping vehicles up-to-date.

"The recession could lead to an increase in problems on road safety. The smart thinking is to get in front of that," he said.

Mr Brunstrom also noted that re-education courses will soon be on offer in every part of Wales for those drivers caught speeding up to 35mph.

In the past, these courses have only been available in north Wales.

The four Welsh police forces hope to achieve these aims in coordination with the assembly government, and have presented a draft manifesto outlining the way in which Welsh roads will be policed in the future.

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