Portsmouth City Council cabinet member for transport, Councillor Lynne Stagg, said safety measures were being introduced in crash ‘hot spots’ but said there were also ‘fundamental’ issues with driving standards that needed to be addressed.’
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‘We do collect data of collisions and where areas of concern arise we will take action to deal with them,' she said. 'There are a number of schemes underway at the moment: new pedestrian crossings and giving greater protection and priority to pedestrians and cyclists amongst others.
‘But there are other underlying issues we have to tackle and that has to be done through education.
‘Drivers have to be more careful on our roads. This is a very densely-populated city with narrow roads and too many cars - that does lead to problems but they are much less straightforward to resolve.’
The number of accidents - at almost 200 per 100,000 people - was lower than in 2019 but the reduction caused by Covid-19 lockdowns was larger in other parts of the country with Portsmouth having been outside the top 20 local authority areas pre-pandemic.
Conservative opposition leader and spokesman for transport Simon Bosher said the council had made ‘critical’ mistakes which could explain the difference.
‘The volume of traffic on Portsmouth doesn't help but the administration made a critical error early in the pandemic with the closure of roads which diverted even more traffic into the centre of the island and undoubtedly led to the number of accidents going up in 2020,’ he said.
‘There are a lot of things being done but the biggest thing is the cycling and walking infrastructure plan which will make a real difference in making our streets safer.’
It comes as The News reported deaths on city roads hit a 10-year high, with seven people killed since June last year.
Hampshire police said the force was taking a ‘joined up approach’ working with the council to help reduce the number of crashes in the city.
Portsmouth chief inspector Robert Mitchell said there had been 25 per cent fewer ‘serious’ crashes in 2020 compared to the previous year but said he 'recognised' this was partly due to the pandemic.
‘However, we also have to acknowledge that we have seen an increase in serious road traffic collisions recently in Portsmouth, with six fatalities on our roads since Christmas,’ he said. ‘We recognise the devastating and far-reaching impact that these have on families, individuals and communities.’
He said the roads policing unit was working to identify ‘high risk areas’ in the city and was targeting these places ‘as a high priority.’
Marked and unmarked patrols are being carried out throughout the city, he added, focusing on ‘dangerous behaviours,’ including tailgating, speeding and distracted driving.
‘While it can be a difficult task to identify themes in the causes of collisions when there are such a variety of factors at play, we do recognise that we have certain challenges here in the city, including its island geography, dense population and lots of pedestrians and cyclists sharing roads in a relatively small space, meaning that the number of road users on the city’s network is always going to be high,’ he added.
He encouraged people who witness illegal or unsafe driving in the city to report it to allow the force to identify ‘problem areas.’