The great strides that we have taken in road safety are one of the major success stories in which the police have been involved in recent times.
The fatal road accident statistics for the old Lothian and Borders Police force area tell their own story. In 1974/5, the last year of the old local forces – the Edinburgh City, Lothian and Peebles, and Berwick, Roxburgh and Selkirk Borders constabularies – a total of 105 people were killed as a result of road accidents across the region as a whole. Last year, that figure dropped to just 21.
It is not just fatal accidents which have fallen dramatically over the last 40 or 50 years, road casualties in general have more than halved, while the number – and speed – of vehicles on the roads has greatly increased.
The reaons for this are many and varied, but include improved in-car safety features, better designed junctions, more use of cycle helmets and less drink-driving.
Another factor has got to be the increased awareness of the risks of the roads among young people. Who among us that is old enough does not fondly remember the Tufty Club and Green Cross Code man?
These were highly successful national campaigns whose message was reinforced to generations of youngsters by police visiting their schools.
It would be folly to rest on our laurels now, especially when so many young drivers are getting behind the wheel of ever-more powerful cars, sometimes with terrible consequences.
Thankfully, the city council appears ready to step into the breach, but at a time when the local authority is looking to make £35 million in savings there is no guarantees that a like-for-like replacement service will be possible.
It has to be hoped that together Police Scotland and the city council can find a way to continue this life-saving work.