O Come all Ye Drink Drivers, Frosty the Car Thief and the role of Star Wars in Policing the Road
Firstly let me thank Sgt Ade Brown for his fantastic first blog. Very good of him to step forward and take up the quill. Hopefully he will be the first of many we can persuade, pressgang or coerce into contributing to the WMP Traffic blog. Hopefully it gave you an insight into the stress and anxiety we put our supervision through on a daily basis.
In this blog I cover a few topics. Firstly I will talk about drink driving and our festive campaign, then look at why Jack Frost is wanted for multiple offences of aiding and abetting and finish off with probably the most important aspect of this blog – Star Wars and its vital role in policing the road.
For those who will be screaming why isn’t he countering the criticism given to the cycling helmet’s blog, well that’s because I’m saving it for a dedicated blog on cycling safety and the work of our safer cycling team to be published in the New Year.
As the winter solstice rapidly approaches and those few rays of sunshine we do see become less and less, and we celebrate Christmas and reflect on the year past, a strange phenomenon grips the land. That’s right, viral foolishness spreads throughout the populace at an alarming rate. This foolishness is displayed in many forms. Unfortunately, as traffic officers we have to deal with most of the results. The most foolish act of drink driving seems to persist no matter what the season though, and it is on this topic we shall start, so grab your coffee and mince pies (as it’s nearly Christmas) and let us begin, oh grab an After Eight as well, be rude not too!
The most selfish drink you could ever have………
Now I normally try to make light and inject a little humour into any subject I cover, but there is no humour in drink driving, so I won’t in this case. Let me start by making something clear. I like most police officers, and particularly traffic officers, have a huge dislike of drink drivers. They are “public enemy number 1”. Their disregard for everyone else’s safety, the carnage they cause, the innocent lives they take, mean we have a special motivation to hunt them down and remove them from our roads. Now you get the motivational picture let me enlighten you as to how we go about removing the menace from our roads.
THINK! celebration https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CERT0xNFGo4
Everyone associates Christmas with drink driving. The season of parties, over indulgence and drowning away the winter blues, does impact on the seasonal figures. However we must remember that this is an all year round problem. Drink drivers take up a considerable amount of the customer footfall entering our magistrates’ courts Monday to Friday, 52 weeks of the year. After years of falling drink drive figures, 2012 onwards has seen a worrying rise. One in six fatal collisions are linked to alcohol consumption so as the department duly charged with driving down these figures you can see why it tops our Christmas list of things to do.
We make an extra effort to combat this seasonal rise every year, and if you are ever unfortunate to experience the tragic consequences of a drink driver you will realise why we will throw such a large amount of resources and time at the problem that just won’t go away. We also of course target the rising yet surprisingly unpublicised threat of drug driving; those driving whilst impaired through the consumption of both illegal and prescription drugs.
We utilise a wide variety of tactics and skills to combat the menace of impaired driving. We have our well-publicised mass checks of course. Whether its first thing in the morning to catch those who have had a skinfull the night before, mid-afternoon to catch the lunchtime drinkers, or the late evening check to get the night time revellers who are driving impaired, you find us out there every day during December and early January come rain or shine. On such checks we literally pull in every car passing if we have space on the check site. We talk to the driver and the smell of alcohol, an admission of drinking alcohol, or a moving traffic offence all giving us grounds to conduct a roadside test. Although this is our most inefficient tactic it does have a large impact as every passing driver notices the operation and it’s all encompassing net. Plus we get to speak to a lot of drivers whom we never usually get to meet; it does become a very effective PR exercise as we get vital road safety messages across at every opportunity. Any evidence of drug use, usually the waft of cannabis emanating from a vehicle will also result in an impairment test for the driver.
In order to target those persistent offenders we utilise our ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) systems and valuable intelligence supplied on the whole by the public. If you know of a drink or drug driver you can call 101 or Crimestoppers and give us their vehicle details. Once their number plate is in the system any hit will result in a stop, and hopefully detection of the offence and subsequent removal of their licence.
Then we patrol around licenced premises, not only to deter crime and festive disorder but also looking for those tentatively pulling off them, whom it would be rude not to have a chat to. Again the whiff of the barmaid’s apron, the slightest moving traffic offence or an admission of drinking results in a roadside test. The success rate on this method is about 1 in 3, my personal favourite, but I crave efficiency in everything! Plus a passing Traffic car is sometimes the motivation some need to take a taxi instead of driving.
Get caught and you’ll get a minimum 12 month disqualification. Not driving will affect every aspect of your life, your capacity to work, socialise and also your standing. It’s that last aspect those who are tempted to chance it should think hard and long about. Everyone hates drink drivers, we, thankfully, have reached the stage where impaired driving is socially unacceptable. Who wants to know or associate with someone who is willing to risk the lives of innocents, all too often children, just so they don’t have to walk, take a bus or taxi home?
Details of those charged with a drink or drug driving offence can be found here .
The people who are being caught cover all social, ethnic and economic demographics; it really is one of those offences that anyone who drives a car on the road could be committing.
For those who commonly say “I only have one or two, because your safe to have one or two” pay particular attention to the next part. We look for impairment: you can pass a roadside test, but that doesn’t mean you are necessarily fit to drive, you can still be arrested. If the manner of your driving shows signs of impairment, this can be as little as failing to signal or swaying slightly in your lane, and we think you’re impaired and under the influence of drink or drugs, we can still arrest you for being unfit. The combination of a report from a specially trained officer who carries out the required tests and the opinion of a doctor mean there will be enough evidence to charge you with the offence of driving whilst unfit; the consequences are the same as any drink drive charge.
Put this in light of the recent limit change in Scotland, which now shares the same limit as most of Europe, which is 20ug/100ml of breath compared to our 35ug/100ml of breath, you begin to realise that the reason for this lower limit is because impairment starts well below our current threshold whereupon you will be arrested. Leaving everyone in no doubt that to be safe, legal and unimpaired, no alcohol is the way to go if you’re driving.
So if you are out over Christmas just remember, even that one drink could be the most selfish drink you ever have….
Jack Frost – The nation’s most wanted
Right, grab another beverage and another mince pie. Why not, it’s the season to be jolly, and let’s continue with our ongoing theme of the Season of Fools……
Yes folks it’s that time of year again when Jack Frost dances his merry dance leaving that cold white stuff everywhere. We do get plenty of warning though, those kind folk at the Met Office tell us when he’s going to be a nuisance so we can cover vulnerable plants and turn the thermostat up a notch or two.
It looks so pretty on a sunny winter morning, that crisp white covering, shame it has to melt, but it has to go, starting with your vehicle if you want to get work or do the school run without resorting to sonar or bat-like echolocation to find your way through the traffic.
So you’ve got to defrost your car. Some methods such as de-icer and the trusty scraper need a little effort and a momentary tolerance of the cold. You can waste some fuel and pollute the local community a little by using the vehicle’s heating and defrosting systems, the choice is yours, we all play our own little part in the bigger picture. Whichever you choose make sure it’s done properly with full clear visibility all around, and if it has snowed, and the usual couple of inches has brought the nation to its knees, make sure you clear it from all parts of your vehicle before driving.
You may be fine, but the car, motorcycle or cyclist behind that cops the fallout from your car as you drive along is put in what sometimes becomes a dangerous collision-causing situation. I‘ve seen a four foot sheet of ice slide off the top of a truck onto a duel carriageway before, luckily empty behind the truck. Imagine the damage that could do.
Anyway, if you are going to use your vehicle’s heating/defrosting systems to ready you for your journey, please ensure that it is you that will be making the journey and not some opportunist car thief who whips it from under your nose because you couldn’t be bothered to sit with it while it defrosts. Watching from the inside doesn’t count; you would never make it outside before your car was off the drive. Sit in it, drink your coffee inside your car while it defrosts, play with your phone, and make the calls or texts now instead of committing offences later in your journey. It’s very usable time you know. Because if you don’t, this is what happens….
We sit around our briefing table guessing when the first one will come in, and despite the warnings we put out across the media, year after year once we’re on the road they start coming in. They are well spread out, the idiocy exists in all corners of the West Midlands. By 8am we are usually looking for two or three that have “gone off the drive with keys”. As we look far and wide we start to find others just waiting to be taken. When we had the last hard frost myself and one other Traffic car removed the keys from 13 defrosting cars without the owner’s knowledge, and that was just in a fraction of our force area. One cunning owner had cleverly left her two children aged six and eight in the vehicle to prevent its theft whilst defrosting! It’s bad enough having your car stolen but see your kids go with it…. and it has happened before, more than once.
So please we have enough stolen cars to find and chase without anyone making it easy for them. Oh, don’t forget insurance companies love saying” no” when it comes to replacing your vehicle under such circumstances. Ask yourself “Can you afford a new car?”
Star Wars and its importance in policing the roads
Now for the important stuff. By now if you’ve read this properly and followed instructions you should be nearing your daily caffeine allowance and be covered in mince pie crumbs, not forgetting the wafer thin mint. This should help you ascend to the higher plane of thought we are about to transcend to. If you’re worried you won’t reach these giddy heights just smash the rest of the After Eights with another coffee…always works for me.
This coincides nicely with the release of the latest Star Wars trailer so here goes and be prepared to learn the true power of the Force……..
Firstly there is the Force, that mysterious interactive energy that guides Traffic officer’s intuition when the ANPR, fingerprint ID and all else fails. It has been responsible for some of the most notable arrests, it has saved lives, but when one of us utters “That’s not right” or “I know him from somewhere” it’s the equivalent to Obi One feeling a “Great disturbance in the Force”. It is never to be ignored and always brings results.
Secondly, Traffic officers use Jedi Mind tricks; never forget this when interacting with a Traffic officer. If you’re ever tempted to lie to us and use the dark side of the Force you will fail, remember the words of Yoda (AKA Chief Inspector Inspector Kerry Blakeman, Jedi Master) “The Force is Strong with these officers”.
Thirdly, Star Wars bestows a great many nicknames and phrases that we could not do without. The tallest, hairiest member of the team is always known as “The Wookie”, organised crime gangs referred to as “The Hut” , criminals who might have a weight problem inevitably get labelled Jabba and our photocopier is lovingly known as R2D2 as it never does what its told and beeps at you incessantly.
Lastly although we don’t have Lightsabers we would like them, but we would never be allowed, because there are two likely outcomes of equipping us with such awesome personal protection equipment…..we might just save the galaxy…..but the most likely outcome would be immediate accidental self-dismemberment….
So until next time when we will talk about standards of driving, and why boy racers number plates just keep on falling off, safe journeys all.
PC 3505 Mark Hodson