A British police force will turn to using an unmarked mobile enforcement vehicle for the first time in a bid to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on the county’s roads.
The unusual step to use an unmarked mobile enforcement vehicle to crackdown on those who continue to use public roads illegally and irresponsibly, has been taken by Northamptonshire Police.
Tragically in 2021, after being involved in a road collision, 29 people never returned home safely to their loved ones, and 280 required urgent medical assistance for serious and life-changing injuries.
Even more worryingly, the Force says they have continued to see an increase in the number of people who have been killed on the county’s road during 2022, with more than 40 fatalities recorded over the past 12 months.
The vehicle will be used at various locations across the county however, priority as always will be given on routes impacted by collisions and where intelligence has been received regarding ongoing issues around poor driver behaviour.
Over the past two years, since people have got back on the roads following the first Covid-19 lockdown, there has been a worrying escalation in the number of collisions due to what the police say is a decline in driving standards.
So far this year, 50,991 motoring offences, which have been detected on the county’s roads, have involved one of the Fatal Five – careless driving, excessive speed, using a mobile phone behind the wheel, not wearing a seat belt, and driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Chair of Northamptonshire Safer Roads Alliance and Head of Operations at Northamptonshire Police, Superintendent Jen Helm, said: “I can tell you that in the last 12 months, 44 people have died on our roads.
“That is 44 parents, friends, siblings, partners, and children who have left the house on a perfectly normal day and just didn’t come home. We know poor driver/rider behaviour plays a large part in these deaths and we know it is on the increase.
“I know the majority consider everyone getting home safe as more important than travelling the extra 10 miles an hour over the speed limit or checking their mobile phones while driving, but sometimes people lose focus.
“However, there are those who chose to deliberately drive or ride irresponsibly or illegally on our roads when they think they can get away with it. This is what the unmarked enforcement van is designed to tackle.”
Anyone committing one of the Fatal Five offences such as driving at excessive speed may be offered an online education course if eligible or receive a fixed penalty fine of £100 and three points added to their driving licence.
If a driver elects to go to court, or the offence is deemed too serious to be dealt with by the way of an online course or fixed penalty, the courts can impose a range of penalties from custodial sentences, driving disqualifications and fines which are means tested.
Northamptonshire Police doesn’t make any profit from fixed penalty notices or court fines – this in fact, goes to the Treasury’s consolidated fund and used by the Government for general expenditure.
The Force does however receive a cost recovery fee of £45 for each completion of the speed awareness course where the offence has taken place in the county. This money can only be spent on road safety.
For example, it is used to fund the Safer Roads Team and road safety interventions, as well as pay for Community Road Safety funding, which the public can bid for, educational material for schools and fully subsidised training for vulnerable at-risk groups.
Northamptonshire Police Safer Roads Operations Manager, Matt O’Connell, added: “We know that people change their driving behaviour when they see a marked police vehicle and using unmarked vehicles is nothing new. However, this is the first time we’ve adopted this approach when it comes to mobile enforcement.
“It’s easy to criticise this approach as being motivated by ticket numbers or revenue, however we see, all too often, the devastating consequences the loss of a loved one has on those left behind to pick up the pieces.
“We’re not going to apologise for the how we police our roads if it means that we take the most dangerous drivers off them, especially if it means that we stop just one person from being killed or having to come to terms with a life changing injury.
“However, with the level of offending across the county, we need to do something different, and the use of unmarked enforcement vehicles might make people think twice before taking unnecessary risks in Northamptonshire.”