Good old-fashioned police work will reduce speeding deaths across Europe

speeding speed
Excessive speed is a factor in a significant number of accidents Credit: Michelle Maddison/Middlesbrough / PA

Speed is a factor in over a third of fatal and serious accidents in London. The Met, as well as police forces from around the country, have been proactively tackling this deadly issue over the past few weeks. It is, after all, their job.

A raft of penalties are expected to be given to motorists caught speeding or driving dangerously, including 12-month bans, points on the offenders licence, and even time in jail for some. But this recent purge is not new, nor is it limited to London or indeed the UK, as motorists across Europe discovered when they came across TISPOL checkpoints on across the Continent. 

The TISPOL organisation that runs the European traffic police network continues reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on all of its road networks, including that of the UK. All vehicle owner and registration data is shared among European forces in accordance with the EU Cross Border Enforcement Directive, and prosecutions do regularly take place.

For instance under current legislation, drivers who commit road traffic offences and cannot provide a valid address in the UK, face a roadside fine of up to £900 and police are empowered to seize the vehicle until payment is made.

Their recent and very successful ‘Operation Strider’ targeted drivers and riders from all EU countries to ensure offenders had limited ability to ‘drive away from justice’, whilst giving equal treatment and good advice to all drivers and riders whatever country they hailed from.

These operations are expected to continue throughout Europe to prevent such offences as (mainly) speeding, driving on the wrong side of the road or in the wrong lane, failing to stop at a red light, not wearing a helmet, failing to wear a seat belt, using a mobile phone and driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs.

Foreign visitors including us Brits may well at some point on our journey find themselves surrounded by police officers from several of the 28 other EU participating countries, all in their varying styles of national police uniform and presumably speaking their own language.

Once innocent drivers have discovered the scene is not a huge James Bond movie set, they will hopefully understand that the cops are operating together and learning about the differing technologies that exist for the detection of road traffic offences whilst sharing best practice (and probably learning how to say ‘your nicked’ in several languages).

Efforts are to be concentrated mainly in areas most affected by deaths and serious injury such as the Central and Eastern regions of Europe; Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as the southern and Balkan region; Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Romania and Slovenia. With the exception of two of the countries (Slovakia & Malta), all were above the EU average for fatalities per million inhabitants of population, recording 49% of all road fatalities combined.

New technologies are expected to be tested on the hoof including the new and very successful roadside mobile fingerprinting system now being issued to several UK police forces. This new fingerprint scanner can instantly reveal both an unknown person’s real identity in just a minute or recognise someone who is failing to give (or is suspected of lying about) their true name.

Fingerprints collected on the street will be compared against the 12 million records contained in national criminal and immigration fingerprint databases to reveal an individual’s name, date of birth and other identifying information. The scanner will simultaneously check both on the IDENT1 database which collects fingerprints gathered by the police when they take someone into custody and the IABS database which stores fingerprints collected from non-UK citizens when they enter the country.

The Home Office has assured that people fingerprinted using this system will have their details automatically deleted from the device as soon as the databases have been searched.

This new technology alongside ANPR cameras has also assisted 35 police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in their clampdown on uninsured drivers. Operation ‘Drive Insured’, a police & DVLA combined initiative using all of its 4000 dedicated roads policing officers, is continuing its success in stopping and identifying a potential five million riders and drivers suspected of having no or incorrect insurance.

The DVLA had previously sent that number of warning letters to known un-insured drivers who, if caught, could have their vehicles seized, incur six points on their licence, pay a £300 fine and receive a possible court prosecution. 11,000 claims from people involved in accidents with uninsured drivers were received in 2017.

Many uninsured drivers are also found to be often involved in other illegal activities such as driving without a valid licence, driving a stolen or untaxed vehicle or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

We do hope the new speed enforcement is effective and saves lives. It certainly puts more officers on the street who no doubt will find many more offences to deal with in the next week or so.

A decade or so ago we had more traffic patrol officers on our streets than you could shake a stick at. It’s called police work and we should not need a (no doubt hugely expensive) initiative now and again to sort out a problem that would not exist if we had more officers out there dealing with it.