10 April 2015

Traffic Enforcement: Why we need traffic Police Officers

Every so often there's a surge in media interest in enforcement cameras on the roads, with each side of the argument vociferously defending their respective points of view. There is, however, another side to the debate: what the cameras cannot do.

With the advent of safety camera partnerships across the country, speed cameras were rebranded as safety cameras and they were to become self-financing with the fines used to operate the schemes. Red light cameras were also included in the schemes.

However, regardless of their name, cameras have a very limited repertoire of offences they can enforce and they cannot address the arguably more serious motoring offences.

Safety cameras cannot detect drunk or drugged drivers, tired drivers or those using their mobile phone, reading a map or simply not paying attention. They cannot identify, stop and confiscate uninsured or untaxed vehicles or those that are overloaded or unroadworthy. They cannot offer words of advice or exercise discretion: You need a police officer for that.

In October 2015 it will become an offence to smoke in a car that's carrying children, but safety cameras will not be able to enforce it, just as they cannot detect people carrying unrestrained children in their cars. You need a police officer for that.

Safety camera partnerships say that cameras save lives, but they cannot move to the scene of an incident, give first aid, call an ambulance or the fire service, or comfort those in shock or distress. Police officers can.

It's all very well introducing new laws, but unless you provide the resources to enforce them they are largely pointless. How many lorry and van drivers do you see smoking in their vehicles contrary to the Smoking at Work laws? I'm not adverse to cameras per se, and red light cameras are something I'm very keen on as the victim of someone who didn't think the red traffic signal applied to them, but they are not a panacea for all forms for traffic enforcement.

ANPR (automatic numberplate recognition) cameras, as opposed to safety cameras, do help to detect some of the offences I've mentioned above, but they need real-life police officers to act on the information they provide and intercept the vehicle.

The 'thin blue line' gets ever thinner, but without real-life Police officers all the rules in the world won't stop people doing what they shouldn't to the detriment of others, not to mention the law-makers appearing somewhat foolish too.

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