Civilian road patrols may be given the power to issue fines

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An overhaul of traffic infrastructure could see civilian road patrols being given the right to enforce traffic rules and fine lawbreakers.

The uniformed Highways England patrols, dubbed 'traffic wombles' by Jeremy Clarkson, were introduced in 2004 to patrol motorways and A-roads. Currently, their duties include only clearing debris, keeping traffic flowing and protecting motorists during jams and in the aftermath of crashes.
While it is against the law to ignore their instructions, they do not have the authority to fine motorists for speeding, poor driving or any other offences. They can, however, pass on an offending vehicle's registration to police.

Under a proposed overhaul of road policing, ministers are now considering giving the 1,500-plus 'officers' limited police powers.

The proposal comes in a paper from police chiefs in response to the government's Strategic Defence and Security Review. They believe that creating a national Highways England force responsible for Britain's 4,300 miles of trunk roads could save hundreds of millions of pounds.

Highways England officers' salaries start at £23,000, which is several thousand pounds less than that of a trained police constable.

According to Gloucestershire Constabulary chief constable Suzette Davenport, 'capable guardians' are needed to help enforce the law to safeguard motorists.

Davenport, who speaks on roads policy on the National Police Chiefs' Council, 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, Tim Rogers, of the Police Federation, is concerned by the proposal.

"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," he said.

"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."