DASHCAMS WERE originally launched to protect drivers against fraudulent insurance claims and to determine who’s at fault for accidents, but today they’re being used to help dwindling police forces catch dangerous drivers in the act.
North Wales Police became the first force in the UK to create a system for the public to send video footage of appalling driving caught on camera by dashcams, helmet cameras and mobile phones.
And according to auto magazine AutoExpress, over 100 clips have been uploaded to the new database and 80 penalties have been issued in the first six months of Operation Snap.
The police have been using the public’s video footage to convict dangerous and offending drivers for some time, with the first person jailed using dashcam video evidence in December 2015.
However, police forces – which have been hit with tightening budgets and fewer traffic cops in recent years – have struggled to vet all the clips sent to them due to limited resources.
North Wales Police calculated that it takes up to 15 hours of police time to charge offenders under old rules that meant they had to treat footage in a similar way to eye-witness accounts, including interviews and masses of paperwork – time it doesn’t have with fewer staff members on its books than seven years ago.
But after finding a loophole in how speed camera clips are used as the only evidence needed to catch limit-breaking motorists, it decided to apply the same process to the footage captured of dangerous drivers on dashcams to reduce charge times.
As a result, the process takes closer to 15 minutes, with clips being uploaded by members of the public with a short description on North Wales Police’s website.
Officers can then review each video case and – as with speeding fines – send a driving penalty notice to the guilty party who can choose to accept it or dispute it in court.
All public-generated video footage can now be used by North Wales Police to target offences including dangerous driving, driving without due care and attention, contravening solid white lines, mobile phone use, improper control of vehicle and contravening red traffic lights.
The force is also calling on vulnerable road users, including horse riders and cyclists, to send in their footage of motorists driving too close to them.
At the launch of Operation Snap last year, assistant chief constable Jeremy Vaughan said: “The operation will enable our communities to help us assist in a key policing priority, to continue to keep the roads of South Wales safe.
“Our officers will still be policing the roads in our force area 24 hours a day, 7 days a week but we know that members of the public are keen to help, and I am pleased that with the support of Go Safe, we can provide an easier way to submit footage and images either whilst travelling as a passenger, or using the footage of dash cams that can submitted at a later date when the driver has finished their journey.”
According to AutoExpress, just two attempts have been made to appeal penalties that have been awarded through Operation Snap, both of which failed.
The service will undoubtedly help police forces that have seen their staff numbers drop in the last seven years.
Home Office data released last year showed that there has been a significant decline in the number of traffic police units patrolling our roads since 2010.
The figures showed that there were 27% fewer officers in 2015 than five years previous, with North Wales Police losing 20% of its traffic police staff in that period – a decline from 88 to 68 police men and women.
South Wales Police – which posted a 21% loss of traffic staff last year – is the only other force to adopt the new system, meaning the nation’s remaining 47 forces are still using the more time-consuming methodology to catch dangerous drivers with dashcam clips.
Sergeant John Roberts told the motoring magazine: “Operation Snap isn’t about catching people; it’s about changing behaviour and hopefully acting as a deterrent against bad driving. If drivers think twice before overtaking on double lines because they think they might be reported, that makes the roads a safer place.”