UK Police forces and the justice system is gradually being overwhelmed with dashcam and headcam footage. In some ways, it is a good thing, but if action cannot be taken against two thirds of drivers, bikers or cyclists breaking the rules then how effective are dash cams? More importantly, how good – and how regulated – is the system for submitting and asssessing the quality of that evidence?
According to What Car? magazine motorists and other road users have sent 52,174 dash cam recordings of potential traffic offences to UK police forces since 2017, with more than a third resulting in a court summons, Fixed Penalty Notice, driver awareness course or warning.
A Freedom of Information request was sent to every UK police force by What Car? It found police forces across the UK receive more than 35 pieces of dash-cam footage every day.
Just over 10% of the incidents captured on film were severe enough to warrant a court prosecution and 9.6% resulted in a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN). A further 10.5% resulted in the driver being asked to attend a driver awareness course, and 3.0% of drivers were given a warning.
Thirty-five of the UK’s 42 police forces have a system in place to process and fine drivers and motorcyclists based on dash-cam evidence from other road users.
The use of dash cams by drivers and other road users has shot up by around 850% since 2017, when insurance companies started accepting footage as evidence for claims and the courts first used footage to convict an offender.
Dyfed-Powys Police in South Wales is the most active in using dash cam footage. It has taken action over 81.3% of the videos it’s received, with 40.2% of offenders receiving a warning, 18.6% of them were prosecuted in court and 18.4% were asked to attend a driver awareness course, while just 4.0% were handed an FPN.
London’s Metropolitan Police received the largest volume of submissions – nearly 25,000 videos over four years – and acted in 45.4% of cases, issuing court proceedings to 18.9% of offenders, driver awareness courses to 13.9%, FPNs to 9.6% and warnings to 2.9%.
Thewre are interesting nuggest of data within the What Car? stats. For example Dyfed/Powys Police took action in 80% of cases where video footage was submitted. By contrast North Wales Police took action on just 27%. That is a huge difference and more research needs to be done to find out why.
Could be the staff/time/financial resources being put into dealing with dashcam clips, could be individual officers’ determination and skill in using other data sources to confirm suspect identities, vehicle ownership, links to other offences etc. Then again maybe there are a dozen or so You Tubers in North Wales dedicating most of their waking hours to submitting 100s of trivial road errors to the local Police website?
In short, we don’t know. But what is obvious is that using dashcam footage as evidence to convict on its own, without any context, is no substitute for a crimnal justice system. We all stand to lose our liberty when the word of one aggrevied road user – and possible tampered with or selectively edited video content – is enough to convict. How can one 2 min clip, minus the goading and aggressive driving by the person filming, be a true representation of a particular incident?
Apart from entrapment by professional Victim Card carrying dashcammers, there is the matter of vigilantism; by encouraging more snitching, which results in serious, life-changing consequences such as job loss, we create more social division and suspicion, more reasons to fear other human beings around us. Ultimately it should be the Police who are responsible for traffic enforcement, not local busybodies with a GoPro and a grudge against the world.
By choosing otherwise we are heading down a very dangerous road.