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Behind the scenes of policing in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset


Roads policing

This week’s visit behind the scenes of the Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police Alliance Operations Dept. (Ops) looks at the work of the roads policing team. As well as tackling the Fatal Five driving behaviours that cause death and serious injury on the region’s roads, officers and staff also work to disrupt the use of the road network by criminals.

You can follow the Alliance Operations department on Twitter at @AllianceOpsDept where we welcome your comments and queries.

Q: I’ve heard that when police fine a driver for an offence, the police force gets the money. Is this true?

A: All fines go directly to HM Treasury via its collections team in Southend.

Q: Does the density and variety of the road network in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset present any special issues for roads policing in the region?

A: Devon and Cornwall has 13,500 miles of roads which represents 6.6% of the total road length and the greatest density of roads of any two counties in England and Wales. This ranges from motorways to A roads to single track lanes and busy urban routes. Dorset has 8098 miles of roads of all types. The complex mix of road infrastructure coupled with the volume of drivers who visit and are unfamiliar with the network present a number of challenges. We are visited by over 4 million vehicles every summer.

Q: Are Alliance roads policing officers responsible for directing traffic at large events?

A: The responsibility for the movement of vehicular traffic at events lies with the event organiser. Many large event organisers employ traffic management companies who develop plans and are authorised to direct vehicles under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS)

Q: Do roads policing officers concentrate on driving offences? What else do they do?

A: Roads policing officers deal with the criminal use of vehicles on our road network. This can range from vehicle offences to terrorism. Organised criminal groups use our roads, linked to activity around drugs, modern slavery and money laundering.

Q: What are the driving offences that roads police are keenest to crack down on and eradicate?

A: The five factors most present in fatal and serious injury road traffic collisions, known as the ‘Fatal Five’. These are:

  1. Excess or inappropriate speed

  2. Impaired driving through alcohol or drugs

  3. Distraction driving, including use of mobile phones

  4. Careless and inconsiderate driving

  5. Wearing of seat belts

Q: Are roads policing officers allowed to break the speed limit? Can they go through red lights?

A: Police officers, and other blue light responders, have an exemption under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to exceed the speed limits or pass through automated traffic signals (red lights) for policing purposes. This must be fully justified and be open to scrutiny.

Q: Are roads policing officers taught special driving skills and tactics? How long does it take to train them?

A: Roads policing officers are trained to Advanced standard, making up just 5% of police drivers. The course lasts 4 weeks, and is on top of response driving qualifications already obtained. Some of the team are trained to escort members of the royal family and other VIPs and all are trained to resolve pursuits, through the use of Tactical Pursuit and Containment (TPAC) skills. Some of the team ride motorcycles to advanced standard.

Q: I have seen unmarked cars suddenly display blue flashing lights? Are unmarked cars adapted in any other ways, are they faster than normal cars? What are they used for?

A: We have a fleet of high performance unmarked vehicles which we use to support the policing of criminal networks and the enforcement around the Fatal Five.

Q: Is it true that some speed cameras don’t work?

A: All housings are in service, the cameras are moved around the fixed sites regularly.

Q: Why don’t you say where Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras are located?

A: ANPR is an important tool in the fight against organised criminality and terrorism. It would undermine our efforts to tackle this level of criminality if we disclosed where the cameras are located.

Q: How can I identify a roads policing officer?

A: Roads policing officers wear a white hat, and will often be the responders to an incident on a fast road such as the A38, A30 or M5.

Q: Do other police officers take part in roads policing operations? What partner agencies do roads police work with?

A: We regularly work alongside the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and HMRC in relation to road fuel testing and vehicle licensing, with Highways England response officers on the M5 and A38, with taxi licensing officers from the local authorities and with National Crime Agency (NCA) staff. We run Allied Wolf operations across both forces targeting criminal use of the road network and the Fatal Five.

Q: What is the biggest challenge that roads policing officers face in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset?

A: Our three counties are incredibly popular with tourists from the UK and abroad, many of whom are unfamiliar with our roads. The sheer volume of vehicular traffic places additional strain on our infrastructure.

Q: As professional drivers, what is the one piece of safety advice that roads policing officers can offer drivers?

A: Always give plenty of space from the vehicle in front, allow yourself time and space to react, and never drive beyond your level of confidence/competence.


Press officer
Devon & Cornwall Police, Press office
Police headquarters, Middlemoor

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