UK police forces are using mobile speed camera vans not just to catch motorists exceeding the limit but to snap them driving without a seatbelt and using phones behind the wheel.
More than a third of the nation’s forces admitted to using the vans to prosecute those who disregard road safety laws while driving, offences that carry fines of between £100 and £500 and six penalty points on a licence.
Some 16 out of 44 UK police forces admit to ‘routinely’ deploying the vans to catch all law-breaking drivers – not just speeders – while four admitted to using the vehicles occasionally to capture other offences.
Caught in the act: Some 16 out of 44 UK police forces admitted to ‘routinely’ using speed camera vans not to catch speeders but those violating other road safety rules
The revelations were uncovered during an investigation by independent road safety charity IAM RoadSmart.
In response to a freedom of information request, the 16 out of 44 forces who replied and admitted regularly using the tactic said officers had recorded more than 8,000 unbelted drivers and around 1,000 holding their phone during 2016.
Three of the forces said they also snapped drivers for a category listed as ‘other offences’, of which around 500 motorists were prosecuted [for things like? need a couple of examples of what other can include].
All 20 forces – including those that infrequently deploy speed camera vans to catch law-swerving motorists – have been listed by the campaigning group (see table below) and included Hampshire, Kent, Northumbria and West Midlands.
Police forces using speed camera vans to snap other offences
Greater Manchester (occasionally)
Source: IAM RoadSmart
While 36 per cent of the forces said it was a routine ploy to catch drivers’ infractions, others said they had reservations about using safety cameras or camera vans to record non-speeding offences as questions remain regarding the legitimacy of the footage being used by the Home Office for prosecution.
Despite the skepticism, 8,000 UK motorists would have been slapped with a £100 fine for failing to buckle up (potentially increasing to £500 if they disputed the evidence and the case went to court).
Meanwhile, 1,000 drivers were slapped with a £100 fine and three penalty points for being snapped at the wheel using their phone – a penalty that has since doubled (to £200 fine and six points) as of last year.
Four forces said they occasionally use their vans to snap all law-breaking motorists
Some 9,000 drivers were prosecuted for non-speeding offences in 2016 that were captured by speed camera vans
Sarah Sillars, chief executive of IAM RoadSmart, defended the 20 forces who admitted to using the tactic, saying it is ‘only the fear of being caught’ that will stop drivers from using their smartphones on the road and not wearing seatbelts.
However, Sillars brought into question the covert nature of catching offenders.
She added: ‘Our research shows that the use of mobile safety camera vans to pursue phone users and seatbelt offenders varies from one force to another.
‘What we need are clear and consistent guidelines on what the cameras are being used for, what training staff are being given and how the images are being used as evidence.
‘The last thing we want to see are resources being wasted or the road safety message being diluted by careless drivers being acquitted.’
SAVE MONEY ON MOTORING