By GRAHAME ANDERSON
A tragic early morning accident back in August provided a sobering reminder of how lives can be decimated when things go wrong on our roads. In Bradford, four young Asian men with great futures ahead of them were killed on Toller Lane on the City Ward border, when their speeding BMW, pursued by an unmarked police car crashed on the way to a mosque. All were old school friends under the age of 23. The crash was referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). It later emerged the vehicles had not collided with each other.
Such was the impact of this event more than 1,000 people turned out to pay their respects at the joint funeral. Imam Muhammed Asim spoke passionately of the consequences of dangerous driving, and within weeks letters spreading this message were sent to city mosques by Bradford Road Safety Partnership. Thankfully their have been no further fatal accidents in the City across the Autumn months.
Dealing With The Problem
Councillor Nussrat Mohammed (Lab, Heaton) told a meeting of Bradford Council’s Regeneration and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee it must be dealt with in the district. She said: “Every time there is a local fatality, there is a huge turnout at the funeral. Sermons are being given raising the consequences of dangerous driving, and they have an impact for a short period. But then after a while everything goes back to normal.”
A Freedom of Information request made by Asian Sunday has revealed in the 12 month period to August 2018, a staggering total of 1,186 road traffic accidents had been recorded in City Ward alone. This included 994 carrying damage only, 164 with slight damage to vehicles, 26 serious incidents and two fatalities. This was by far and away the biggest in Bradford compared to Bowling and Barkerend, who recorded 577 RTC’S including one fatality, and Keighley Central with 457 incidents and a single fatality. At the other end of the scale Wharfedale suffered 89 RTC’S without a single death. Figures issued to me by West Yorkshire police however, show a slight general decrease in City Ward over the past 36 months. But of course, one fatality anywhere is one too many in terms of the impact it can have on families.
There were 787 fatalities across the UK in 2017. This can be compared with a national total of 170,993 casualties of all severities in reported road traffic collisions in 2017. This was six per cent lower than in 2016, the lowest level on record. There has also been complicated changes to the way our forces report RTC’S. And while some Bradford locals on social media have accused the police of not taking strong enough action, it would seem the problem of police numbers is having a big bearing on the situation.
It’s a fact Government cuts has seen West Yorkshire Police’s budget slashed by £140 million since 2010, forcing a substantial reduction in officers across the region. In real terms, the number of dedicated traffic police officers has dropped from 218 in 2012, to 133 in 2017, representing a fall of almost 40 per cent. It also means the regional force has undergone a re-organisation in terms of where officers are deployed. Around 500 extra police officers are in the process of being recruited.
Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley said: “The cuts were bad news for Bradford, where there were countless examples of terrible driving causing death or injury”.
Local Labour MP’s including Naz Shah, Bradford West, Judith Cummins, Bradford South and Imran Hussain, Bradford East, have repeatedly raised the issue in parliament. All believe The Government needs to take dangerous driving seriously and provide the resources they need to keep people safe in the city.
National commentators have questioned how recently introduced laws, such as the ban on using mobile phones at the wheel, can be enforced, with 30 per cent fewer officers dedicated to policing roads.
City Ward is an electoral ward within the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council. It covers the centre of Bradford within the inner ring road and the areas of Shearbridge, Lister Hills, Brown Royd, Dirk Hill, Little Horton Green and part of Lidget Green, all to the west of the commercial centre. West Yorkshire Police pointed out with traffic being greater around the centre, there are greater risks of course, with many incidents being caused by driver error and reaction, speeding, dangerous driving or just pure gambling, when weather or traffic conditions call for greater caution.
Working With Police
City Ward Councillor Nazam Azam told me: “We continue to work closely with West Yorkshire Police around dangerous driving and anti social behaviour, and have every confidence in the job they are doing. The safety of local residents is paramount, and we are trying hard to get the message across dangerous driving can kill both parties in truth. And while city centre traffic has a knock on effect on our ward, we still need to get those figures vastly reduced through education.
“Many of our younger people are involved in road traffic collisions, and in some cases while driving fast may seem like fun, to local residents it can be deeply worrying. There is a definite trend to inexperienced drivers taking control of new and more powerful vehicles. With this in mind police are also working with hire companies with regard to possible age restrictions.”
The Insurance Factor
So has the high RTC figure resulted in higher car insurance premiums in City Ward? In truth, a number of factors are involved with individual insurance companies rating certain areas differently to others. Someone living in an area with low crime is likely to get a cheaper car insurance quote than someone living in an area where crime is regularly happening regardless of RTC’S So the answer is no. In fact, according to Moneysupermarket.com, Girlington, Manningham and Lower Grange have the most expensive premiums in Bradford, with the highest being recorded at £818-79. The AA say the City of Bradford is one of the top 15 for the most expensive car insurance in the UK, with a premium weighted average of £847-19. Most road traffic accidents aren’t crime related.
They told Asian Sunday: “Essentially, car insurance premiums are based on risk so a whole range of factors combine to deliver a quoted annual car insurance premium. If there are more claims such as car thefts or thefts from cars, car vandalism, or uninsured drivers, from a particular location such as Bradford City, this indicates there is a higher risk for the insurer of customers making a claim – thus the premium will be higher to reflect that risk.
“For example a driver in urban Bradford who parks their car in a communal car park or on the street will pay a considerably higher premium than someone living in a village, say in the Cullingworth area who keeps their car on their own drive or in a garage (same BD post code).”
Improving Driving Standards
As Asian Sunday previously reported, Operation Steerside, is a police-led partnership addressing driving standards across Bradford District. Superintendent Daniel Greenwood, Operations lead at Bradford District Police, told us: “Steerside has been running across the district for more than two years and recently broadened its focus to tackle the anti-social use of vehicles, as well as the fatal four offences – speeding, using a mobile phone, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and not wearing a seatbelt.
“Police in Bradford West are continuing their work in support of Steerside and will be holding further multi-agency operations to tackle those using the roads illegally or driving vehicles which are not in a fit state to be on our roads.”
The Council works alongside the police in campaigns such as ‘One Life Lost’ targeting young drivers. Officers regularly deliver talks to year 12/13 students on the dangers of the ‘fatal 4’ offences: drink/drugs, speeding, mobile phone use and not wearing a seat belt. They also maintain working with Bradford’s mosques could be one of the keys to cutting down on the number of tragic road accidents in the city. The West Yorkshire Local Transport Plan has set a target to reduce the number of fatal and serious road casualties in West Yorkshire by 50 per cent by 2026.
Nazam Azam added: “We must keep doing everything possible collectively to make City Ward a safer place for drivers, residents and pedestrians.”
Number Plate Recognition
Recent investment of more than £2m in Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology has already led to the arrest of thousands of road and traffic offenders, though more still needs to be done.
Not Clear Cut
The conclusion seems to be a range of factors are involved including police budget cuts, the rise in non-insured drivers, speeding, human error, an increase of powerful cars on the roads and in some cases, lack of regard for pedestrians, local residents and other road users. It’s clear however these issues need to be tackled quickly as Bradford fights to become a safer place for motorists and pedestrians alike.