Driving test examiners may use body cameras after attacks by failed candidates

Updated: 

Driving test examiners could be given body cameras following a spate of attacks by failed candidates.

Around 240 incidents of physical or verbal abuse were reported in 2016, up from approximately 180 during the previous year, according to government agency the DVSA.

Attacks on all DVSA staff - including vehicle testers and roadside enforcement staff - rose by around 50% to more than 300 over the same period.

The DVSA has launched a crackdown on the abuse, including trialling body cameras for front-line staff.

They will initially be given to roadside workers but could be rolled out to include driving test examiners if they prove effective, the agency said.

Cameras are already used by many police forces to record their officers' interactions with the public.

The DVSA also pledged to make abusive learner drivers take their next test elsewhere and to refer all incidents of threats and physical assault to the police.

In West Yorkshire in March a candidate who was asked to stop his car after committing a number of serious errors swore at the examiner and drove wildly across a dual carriageway.

The examiner had to use dual controls to bring the vehicle to a safe stop. The culprit was banned from that test centre and will be supervised during any future tests.

DVSA chief executive Gareth Llewellyn said: "I am immensely proud of my colleagues at DVSA, all of whom work incredibly hard to help you stay safe on Britain's roads. We do not tolerate anyone abusing, threatening or assaulting them.

"Our message is clear - whatever has happened, don't take it out on our staff. If you do, we'll press for the strongest possible penalties."

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: "Examiners at the DVSA play a vital role in ensuring the safety of drivers and vehicles on our roads on a daily basis.

"It's therefore disappointing to see such a marked increase in the level of verbal and physical abuse they are encountering from the very people they are trying to help.

"The majority of UK drivers and road users will wholeheartedly support a zero-tolerance approach to such behaviour."

The DVSA said there have also been cases of vehicle examiners and roadside enforcement staff being bullied.

A driver and operator from a Shropshire scaffolding firm made a false claim against a DVSA employee who discovered offences relating to the recording of drivers' hours.

Wales traffic commissioner Nick Jones rejected the firm's accusation and concluded that the "appalling behaviour" of the driver had been condoned by his "irresponsible" employer, resulting in a "significantly disproportionate" complaint made against an experienced traffic examiner, the DVSA reported.

Mr Jones said: "My fellow traffic commissioners and I welcome the agency's campaign to tackle the unacceptable abuse which staff may face whilst carrying out their professional duties."