Road policing seeks to ensure that all people can use the roads, go about their daily life and get round their towns safely and without being harmed or intimidated by unlawful and anti-social behaviour on the road.
The roads policing strategy (new window) is part of the national policing plan. With 30 million vehicles in Great Britain, the roads are busy and hazardous. Unlawful and anti-social use of the roads affects people's safety and sense of security, with bad road use also contributing to the 3,500 people killed and 35,000 people seriously injured each year on the roads.
Road policing seeks to ensure that all people can use the roads, go about their daily life and get round their towns safely and without being harmed or intimidated. This is particularly important for the elderly, for children, and also for the economically and socially disadvantaged, whose children, as noted in the government’s road safety strategy, are five times more likely to be killed than those of the most fortunate.
Proactive road policing, in partnership with the other authorities and agencies involved – local councils, local highway authorities and the Highways Agency, voluntary and community bodies – contribute to and support the rest of the policing function in:
- denying criminals use of the roads by enforcing the law
- reducing road casualties
- tackling the threat of terrorism
- reducing anti-social use of the roads
- enhancing public confidence and reassurance by patrolling the roads.
Traffic law enforcement devices
Effective road policing relies on the use of sophisticated traffic law enforcement devices. The Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 requires that these devices are approved by the Secretary of State, so that evidence from them can be used in court proceedings. Type approved speedmeter cameras are devices used to detect vehicles breaking the designated speed limit for an area by means of radar, light beam or distance over time speed detection devices.
Before certain new technologies can be used officially by the police in enforcement of traffic law, they have to be ‘type approved’ by the Home Office. Devices are tested in various conditions over and above what is required in normal day-to-day operations. This ensures that the equipment is reliable, robust and of a sufficiently high standard to be used to produce evidence.
The type approval process has two stages: one led by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) roads policing enforcement technology committee and the second by the Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB).
The ACPO committee review the technical description and health and safety information of any new device presented by a company, and if it is thought to have merit, the committee allocates three police forces to carry out tests in accordance with guidance. The HOSDB decides whether the device should have further technical tests, and if these are satisfactorily completed it recommends type approval to the Home Office Public Order Unit.
Devices are continually self-calibrating with their own fault report system. The HOSDB is satisfied that the devices should be calibrated in factory when constructed, and then again annually. The factory check and annual check ensure that the device’s own internal and continuous calibrating system is operating correctly. A visible sticker is usually placed on a device showing the date of the last check.
Breath testing devices
The guide to type approval procedures for breath alcohol screening devices used for law enforcement in Great Britain gives a description of the technical requirements which need to be met in order to be considered for type approval for police use in Great Britain. The guide contains details about the construction of breath alcohol devices, their operation and the methods of testing prior to submission to the Secretary of State for consideration.
The code of practice for preliminary impairment tests is designed for the use of police officers trained and authorised to carry out preliminary impairment tests to determine whether a person is unfit to drive and whether or not the unfitness is likely to be due to drink or drugs.
Type approvals have been divided into three categories:
Evaluation of the safety camera partnerships over the four year period from April 2000 to March 2004 identified their success in reducing speeding and the resultant casualties. The evaluation found that vehicle speeds had been reduced by 70% at new fixed camera sites and by 18% at new mobile sites.
Reductions in the proportion of vehicles breaking the speed limit by 15 miles per hour or more were even greater. Both casualties and deaths were down—after allowing for the long-term trend, but without allowing for selection effects (such as regression-to-mean) there was a 22% reduction in personal.
On 2 February 2009, we sent a letter to the chair of the ACPO road policing enforcement technology committee to clarify the position regarding type approval of traffic law enforcement devices and the consequent admissibility in court of evidence from such devices.
There are currently two approved immobilisation devices: