Ministers have been urged to halt the decline in roads police officers as a study suggests it is linked to a failure to cut casualties from traffic accidents.
A report by the parliamentary advisory council for transport safety (Pacts) called on the Government to make roads policing “a national priority”.
It stated that the number of officers dedicated to roads policing in England and Wales has fallen since 2010, including an 18% decrease between 2015 and 2019.
Pacts noted that the long-term decline in road deaths and serious injuries has “largely ceased” over the same period.
“It is widely suggested that this is at least partly due to reductions in roads policing”, the study concluded.
Not wearing seatbelts was linked to a rise in the number of people who have died in cars while not buckled up.
Department for Transport figures show there were 1,782 reported road deaths in 2018.
Pacts executive director David Davies said: “The coronavirus lockdown has highlighted the importance of roads policing, with traffic speeds increasing on empty roads and worrying incidences of extreme speeding.
“This could have serious consequences, particularly for people following Government advice to walk and cycle.
“The number of road deaths is more than twice the deaths from homicide and terrorism combined, and breaches of road traffic laws are the biggest single cause of road deaths.
“This needs to be recognised in the Government’s priorities and resources for policing. The public support more enforcement.”
Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: “There’s always the minority who choose to break the rules – on the road and elsewhere – unless they feel there is good chance of being caught and prosecuted.
“It is their behaviour which makes having an effective police presence vitally important.”
A Government spokeswoman said: “It is vital that everyone is able to travel safely on our roads, and we recognise the critical role that policing plays in saving lives and driving down criminality.
“This is why we’re recruiting an additional 20,000 officers – over 3,000 of which have already joined the force – and progressing with our two-year Roads Policing Review to explore what more can be done to improve road safety.
“We will also shortly be launching a call for evidence to help us further investigate the link between enforcement, collisions, congestion and crime – helping make our roads safer for everyone.”