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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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22 comments

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Rik Mayals unde... | 3 years ago
1 like

Lancashire police are a waste of time, there's always an excuse, which centres around "It's not in the public interest to prosecute, and we are far too busy to bother". 

BTW, the picture of Amin Rhoune, he's very small, isn't he?

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nniff | 3 years ago
1 like

I'm pleased that the Met thinks it's working.  I have a camera front and back, but I only submit the footage of really bad passes (whem, of course, the Class A idiot of a camera operator has actually switched the bloody thing on).  My experience is that the Met have sent a NIP to every one, bar one where there was a computer system glitch.  Surrey went after a hit and run driver with great diligence and determination, only to be let down by the Courts (more specifically the Clerk to the Magistrates, who was as much use as a square wheel).  All we need to do now is address a public perception that video footage isn't fair

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Mungecrundle replied to nniff | 3 years ago
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Hertfordshire seem to have difficulty dealing with collisions, let alone close passes or other reporting of antisocial driving. They claim Data Protection and will not update you on any action, if any taken. How come this legislation is understood differently by the Met? How do they let you know the outcome?

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Proflex957 replied to Mungecrundle | 3 years ago
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I've had the same issue here on a recent submission - hiding behind data protection.  Which is strange as they shared a lot of detail on a previous incident I submitted over a year ago.  

They are now claiming you are a witness to an incident and therefore have no right to be kept informed.  This runs contrary to advice I've been given.

I'd certainly be interested to know why Herts Police seem to be taking this position - which appears out of step with other regions.

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Eton Rifle replied to Proflex957 | 3 years ago
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Not just your force. Avon & Somerset are also hiding behind the "data protection" excuse as a reason for not providing updates to people submitting video footage. Ridiculous.

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Mungecrundle replied to Eton Rifle | 3 years ago
1 like

Official Herts response to a recent video submission of a moped being ridden on the pavement.

"Thank you for the submission of your footage, we will now review the footage and investigate any offences disclosed.

Please be aware that you may not hear anything further from us in relation to this matter.

Should we need any further information we will contact you.

Unfortunately due to the data protection Act 2018 we are unable to disclose the outcome of the case with you."

Point is, I don't particularly want to know the specific outcome, but I would like to know that reporting stupid / dangerous / inconsiderate driving is not a waste of time, effectively filed into the round filing cabinet that gets emptied by the cleaners every night.

Maybe a broad FOI request, number of submissions and numbers followed up with NIP or warning letter is in order.

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jigr69 replied to Proflex957 | 3 years ago
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This is the view of the Northants Police, you can submit footage but will never hear back as to the outcome and whether or not you've wasted your time in submitting.

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quiff | 3 years ago
2 likes

There is also a worrying inconsistency in how the same force deals with slightly different incidents. Until recently I have been very impressed with the Met's approach - I have submitted 6 close pass incidents to them (I only bother to submit the really bad / deliberate ones) of which 3 have been sent on driver awareness courses and 3 are still in progress. But a couple of weeks ago when I was actually knocked off by a driver in a left hook incident, they wouldn't take any further action. Apparently policy is not to take action if there is no injury or damage. While I understand they can't take action in all incidents, it seems illogical and inconsistent to take action against drivers who nearly hit cyclists, but not against those who actually do hit them.    

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ktache replied to quiff | 3 years ago
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There was no bruising?  Even if I fall off when off road, through my own inabilities, there is at least a bruise or a little gravel rash.

 

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quiff replied to ktache | 3 years ago
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A tiny bit sore on the hip the next day, but nothing visible and worth pushing the point. It just seems wrong to me that they'll punish a close pass, but if you go a step further and actually connect then suddenly there's a higher threshhold for action.      

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Cycloid | 3 years ago
5 likes

A lot of people complain that the police fail to act on videos.

You can find out what is really happening in your area under the Freedom of Information Act.

I submitted a request to my local police force for 2019, asking,  1) how many cyclist videos were posted, 2) how many were acted upon, 3)What actions were taken. See the reply below:-

Q1:   144 cyclist submissions were received in 2019
Q2:   46 were processed
Q3:     Conditional Offer - Paid:  4           Course Attended:  28           Court Process:  6      Cancelled: 3    Warning Letter: 4     Outcome not held: 1

So about one third got acted upon.

There are two  ways of looking at these results. There must be a high standard of evidence before the police can act, and not all videos will meet that standard. Alternatively, this is just the tip of a large iceberg. Video cameras are expensive and only bought by serious cyclists (Grandad riding to the local shop to buy his morning paper, or Johnny riding to school don't have cameras) They are only bought by people who have been on the receiving end of bad driving. They ony submit their best (worst) evidence to the police.

Don't sit back and complain about the situation, get the data.

If you don't like it send it to your Police Commissioner, MP, Local council, Local Paper, Cycling UK, and anyone e3lse you can think of.

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gavben replied to Cycloid | 3 years ago
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Cycloid, you may be lucky enough to live in an area where the police give a sh*t. The response to my almost identical FoI request was to provide me with the numbers of reports (less than one per day, entirely consistent with their description of being "unable to cope" with the "deluge" of reports). As regards numbers processed or action taken "we do not hold that information"

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Cycloid replied to gavben | 3 years ago
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Hi gavben

I would say that your response is unacceptable in itself.

The police may be digging a hole for themselves. I believe there is a complaints procedure available.

you now have two complaints 1) The police don't give a s**t about cyclists. 2) they are not fulfilling their duty under the foi act.

Send your complaints to the Police Commissioner, etc, etc

Cheers Cycloid

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lukei1 replied to Cycloid | 3 years ago
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I sent an FOI request to CIty of London Police to see hwo they compared to the Met in terms of actioning reports. They replied saying it would be too expensive to break down how they responded to reports, as it would take more than 15 hours work?!?!

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Cycloid replied to lukei1 | 3 years ago
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It's good to see I'm not the only anorak trying the foi route.

I would not have submitted my foi if I thought I was taking a Bobby off frontline duties for fifteen hours.

Video submissions and complaints are made online. Surely the information and actions are stored in a database in this day and age. So an foi request like ours should mean a civilian IT person writing a few lines of SQL script to interrogate the database.

Again carry on complaining

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quiff replied to Cycloid | 3 years ago
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You would think so, but the ICO's guidance on making a FOI request says "don't make assumptions about how the authority organises its information or tell them how to search for the information you want". In a public service subject to funding cuts, it's not a given that they have an integrated cradle to grave system for submitting evidence and dealing with the offence.  

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schlepcycling | 3 years ago
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The problem is always going to be enforcement.  My commute takes me across the boundary between Thames Valley and the Met and commuting 4 days per week usually means I'm submitting 2 close passes to each force each week.  I fully appreciate that my experience is anecdotal but I would say that at least 50% of the videos I submit to the Met result in an NIP being sent, whereas with Thames Valley in nearly 2 years of my current commute not a single NIP has been issued.  Their usual response is that they quote 'send a letter of advice to the registered keeper giving advice and guidance around the safe passing of cyclists, in line with the Road traffic Act and the highway code' unquote.  They also say that they keep the details on file in case of a repeat and frankly the only reason I keep sending videos to Thames Valley is in hope that I get a repeat offender who they eventually decide to prosecute.  Other than that Thames Valley are utterly useless.

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Awavey replied to schlepcycling | 3 years ago
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Sometimes I feel a letter would be more appropriate than NIP,a NIP you always risk being contested in the courts,so I end up filtering out submitting all but the really dangerous passes,because I dont have the energy, the time or need the extra stress of committing to the process for multiple reports, nearly every day.

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hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
3 likes

Sounds to me like he understands how valuable cam evidence can be. What we need now is some consistency with the police side of things and some more resources thrown at it. Personally, I don't see why we can't have a national team of police set up that just deals with road dashcam footage. Set up remote access working and it's a job that someone with minimal training anywhere in the UK could feasibly do. Have them examine the footage, write up their conclusions (maybe get a consensus view from others if they're not yet experienced) and pass on to the relevant force to either submit warnings, notice of prosecution or follow-up for other suspected criminality.

Once you've got a decent percentage of drivers/cyclists with cams, then people will realise that they'll rarely get away with inconsiderate behaviour on the roads.

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Awavey replied to hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
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I'm not sure a dedicated national team would help as much as just agreeing a set of national standards for each police force to use & adhere to. The problem will always be theres a subjective element to assessing these videos, even before you deal with variances of cameras, setups, expectations of road users, even on NMOTD it's rare everyone commenting is in agreement on what's happened.

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eburtthebike | 3 years ago
2 likes

Good to hear that some police understand the problem, which is drivers not cyclists.  Rather peculiar use of "enforce" though; you can enforce a law, but you can't enforce a person.

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iandusud replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago
4 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

Good to hear that some police understand the problem, which is drivers not cyclists.  Rather peculiar use of "enforce" though; you can enforce a law, but you can't enforce a person.

The problem is not drivers - it's bad drivers. Please let's not be as bad as those who take about "cycists" as if we all jump red lights etc.

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