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Police enforcement against close passing drivers is a 'postcode lottery' says senior Met Officer - but video evidence is the future

Head of Met Police Vision Zero says camera evidence “almost the biggest single agenda item to improve road safety”

Camera evidence is "almost the biggest single agenda item” to make roads safer, says the London police detective in charge of road safety, who describes enforcement of close passing drivers in the UK as a “postcode lottery”.

Detective Superintendent Andy Cox is in charge of the Metropolitan Police’s Vision Zero programme, the target to reduce all road deaths and serious injuries in London to zero by 2041.

In an exclusive interview Cox says the development of helmet cam evidence is "huge" and, thanks to its increasing profile, used by broadcaster, Jeremy Vine, among others, the Met has seen a 300% rise in video submissions in the past year, two thirds of which they are able to enforce - with further growth expected in the next five years.

Top tips on submitting good quality camera evidence to police

"The development of head cam and dashcam [evidence] is absolutely huge," Det Supt Cox said. 

“That whole agenda is in its infancy. If you fast forward five years maybe cars can have dashcams as standard, people will know how to refer [to police], drivers will know it's being used, we will have a really successful enforcement ratio and approach to it.

“I think that's almost the biggest single agenda item that can really improve road safety because we've got 24/7 widespread ability to enforce”.

“What we tried to do with dashcam and headcam [evidence] is say ‘okay well the police might not be there but the person just next to you can enforce you’.”

He said there is a “dedicated prosecution team” dealing with camera evidence, and two thirds of submissions are enforced.

"We're pleased to market the fact that we are using headcam and dashcam to enforce people,” he said.

“Your average drivers, who maybe decide to do something they shouldn't, would think twice about it, and then the roads would be safe.”

Det Supt Cox said enforcement of helmet camera evidence can be a “postcode lottery” in the UK, however, and admits he occasionally advises police forces outside of London on enforcement using helmet cam evidence. Cox is advocating for a more concerted national enforcement of roads, including to catch offending drivers who cross county lines. He is in the process of setting up a national working group to share good practice on roads policing, he says.

It is not a new tactic for police, who regularly rely on communities to report intelligence on other types of crime.

Cox and his team find pulling drivers over for infractions such as driving without insurance and seatbelts often unearths other kinds of criminality.

“Being prepared to do that really dangerous overtake is perhaps more of a sign of somebody that is prepared to go and be involved in other criminality,” says Cox. “We've drawn that link.”

Ultimately, he believes, more attention needs to be given to road deaths. “There's so much attention given to homicide, murder, very little attention is really given to road death. In comparison, we will have, almost certainly, more road death than murder.”

“We need a bit of a societal change,” says Cox. “There needs to be some recognition that too many people are dying and that absolute devastates everybody involved,” and yet, he said, “people continue to drive really, really badly.”

Speeding is a factor in 37% of road deaths in the capital – the single biggest risk factor in deaths and serious injuries. Cox wants to see speeding made as socially unacceptable as drink driving.

Police officer blames cyclist for taxi driver close pass – road safety experts (including another traffic officer) disagree

Road.cc asked Det Supt Cox about the Met’s apparent inconsistencies in policing cyclists across London. These include the Swains Lane hit and run case where a man badly injured by a hit-and-run driver speeding on the wrong side of the road, had to find his own CCTV footage. It also includes the enforcement of a cyclist who submitted footage of a close pass, only to be told he would be fined for riding on a shared use pavement; and the disproportionate enforcement of cyclists on some main road cycling corridors. 

Det Supt Cox said: “We do enforce some cyclists,” adding “actually cyclists can cause risk themselves, if they're going through red lights all the time.”

However, he admitted the risk they pose is “staggeringly small.” “What I always talk about is that we use a proportionate, balanced approach to it. I think we're right to look at it… and then our cycle safety team do a lot of education and visibility in support of cycling.

"Our cycle safety team is a small part of our overarching [work]”, he said, adding “the majority of their work is targeting drivers”. Around 1.5% of enforcement by police in London is on cyclists, according to City Hall.

He said the Met Police is “miles ahead on roads policing”, thanks to funding from Transport for London, its partnership with London’s walking and cycling commissioner, Will Norman, and its work on HGVs, for example.

Last year cycling fatalities in the capital dropped to five, from 12 the previous year, and 10 in 2017, while Det Supt Cox says overall road casualties dropped by 7% last year. As well as targeting high offending drivers, including those without insurance, they target problem areas like the A10 in Enfield, North London.

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