Saturday 9 October 2010

Two Cheers for Surrey Police

The prize for providing the first substantive response from my letters of a couple of weeks ago goes to Surrey Police.  I used their DriveSmart website initiative back in July to report this overtake on the A30 Egham by-pass.

A letter from the Chief Constable's office confirmed that my report had been received and apologised for the fact that I was not sent a form and asked to come into a police station to report the offence formally.  I have encountered this before, when trying to report bad driving to the Metroploitan Police, and it does seem to me that a requirement to attend a police station and fill in a complex form is designed to deter too many reports.  The letter went on to say that the time limit for bringing a prosecution had now passed but an attempt would nonetheless be made to contact the driver.
In fact the time limit for bringing a prosecution for careless driving is six months BUT, and here is the rub, if there is no accident and the motorist is not informed at the time of the possibility of prosecution, a 'Notice of Intended Prosecution' must be served on the registered keeper of the vehicle within 14 days of the offence.  Accordingly where there is no accident and the offender is not stopped by the police at the time, they must act pretty swiftly to contemplate prosecution based on the report of a member of the public.  This requirement also makes private prosecutions difficult for anybody who does not have access to the dtabase of vehicle registration numbers.
I have at the same time had a constructive e mail dialogue with an officer in Woking who has asked for, and now seen my video footage and will, if he can, give some advice to the driver.
Surrey Police are as a result of all this reviewing their system for the reporting of bad driving and in particular are looking into online reports that dispense with the need for a visit in person to a police station to fill in a form.  They aim to learn from the experience of Sussex Police who apparently have such a system (and who hopefully have learned something in the past from the Marie Vesco case).
There does appear to be some good intention at a policy setting level.  It would be good to see some more efficient implementation of policy.  Obviously suitable charges following an accident are very important (which is why the lack of action following some of the fatal cases I have written about are such a disgrace).  However intercepting poor driving before there is an accident also has the potential to save a lot of grief.
I would like to see drivers routinely pulled up on careless (or 'inconsiderate', the threshold for the offence is not high) driving before they cause an accident.
No substantive response yet from the Met Police, AXA Insurance, Tellings Golden Miller or Europlant Group.  I aim to keep you posted.


  1. Sussex Police's Operation Crackdown website is pretty good, and works well. I've used it several times for cases of dangerous driving, and for some the police have informed me that they have written to the vehicle owner. I understand that they've managed to take serious action against several repeat offenders, and often regular bad driving (of the sort that people report on the web site) is linked to other illegal activity.

    It's good news that Surrey are considering doing the same thing, and that the police are taking bad driving as seriously as they should (given that it kills around nine people every day in the UK).

  2. "a requirement to attend a police station and fill in a complex form is designed to deter too many reports"

    Seems to work -- I think I still have at least one of those never completed forms lying around. Ah, yes, 19 pages of it, including part G: "Please draw a sketch of the collision, showing positions of vehicles 1 and 2, direction of travel, street names, road signs, crossings, bollards, etc. It would be helpful if you could indicate north.

    Seems a lot of effort for something that's going to get filed away as nothing more than a statistic.