We’ve all encountered them: drivers who put on their best ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ performance for the speed cameras, and behave like complete maniacs the rest of the time when they are safely out of view. Cutting up cyclists on corners, dangerous tailgating behind other vehicles, speeding and drink-driving are just some of the frightening issues road users encounter on a regular basis. But now, thanks to the prevalence of dash cams (which are used by around 15% of drivers in both new and used cars), there’s no escape for hot-headed law-breakers, as footage is often being recorded by the car behind them.
The motor trade has often presented challenges for the police force, taking up hefty chunks of time because of how many offences are committed. Even if a witness submits dash cam footage to the police, hoping to save them the effort of evidence-collecting, it can take members of the force around 15 hours just to send out a penalty. But now, one Police force believe they have found a solution.
Operation Snap is the name of an innovative online system, working in a similar way to the fast and efficient processing we see with speed camera footage. Road users upload their dash cam recordings to the website, and each submission only takes up 15 minutes of an officer’s time: a vast improvement on 15 hours. Licence plates or trade plates allow the system to trace the driver. Then, as with a speeding ticket, a penalty is sent out to the driver, who can either accept it or contest it in court.
The system is proving highly effective so far, with 80 penalties sent out from around 100 submissions, and all of them successful (only two drivers attempted – and failed – to fight in court). This was just in the first 8 months.
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Several milestones have been key in improving safety on the roads: seatbelts, the obligation to have an insurance policy, and the introduction of speed limits have all helped to reduce the danger for road users. Operation Snap could be the next huge step for road safety, and if other forces can implement a similar system, it could be coming at just the right time to help manage the burden, with funding cuts reducing the number of police hours available. Whilst North Wales Police have a reasonably small area to work with, other localities would need to test different versions of Operation Snap and ensure that they are robust enough to deal with larger populations.
Police have stressed the need for drivers to be responsible in their use of dash cams; they condemn the behaviour of so-called ‘vigilantes’, and insist that any footage should not be uploaded for public viewing online. Their end goal is simply to make the roads a safer place for vulnerable users, such as cyclists, who evidence shows are at a much higher risk.