The Government is considering giving civilian road patrols the power to fine motorists who are spotted breaking the law, several media outlets are reporting.
In a news article published yesterday (31 Jan), the Times says hundreds of traffic officers would be given broader powers, traditionally reserved for police, in an effort to strengthen the deterrent for motorists who speed or use their mobile phone while driving.
Yahoo News says the idea has been met with mixed reactions, endorsed by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) but criticised by the Police Federation.
Affectionately nicknamed ‘traffic wombles’, there are currently more than 1,500 uniformed Highways England staff who monitor Britain’s motorways and A-roads. However, this number would increase if the plan goes ahead.
These patrols were initially introduced in 2004 and tasked with keeping traffic flowing during traffic jams and crashes. However, while it is an offence to ignore their instructions, they currently do not have the power to arrest people for driving crimes – something that would change in the proposed shake-up.
Chief constable Suzette Davenport, NPCC lead on roads policing, told the Police Federation roads policing conference: “Some of these ambitions could be delivered by enabling Highways England traffic officers to have some extra powers.
“It is not something that is a done deal but it is something that we are exploring.
“My desire is to get the maximum safety and security on our roads.”
However, critics of the proposals say that road safety is too important to be taken out of the hands of traffic police.
Tim Rogers, Police Federation, said: “If you are looking at providing something as important as roads policing, having people who are potentially unaccountable to the chief constable would be a bad thing.
“Dealing with road deaths, dangerous drivers and other risks on our major road networks is a job for the police and not a private company.
“It would also mean the Highways England officers may no longer be available to do the work they were brought in for, such as clearing debris and dealing with minor collisions.”
According to Yahoo News, a Government spokesman said a consultation would be conducted before any decisions were made.
Photo: Highways England via Flickr
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