Police forces across Wales will now accept ‘dashcam’ footage recorded by the public to investigate driving offences following a pilot scheme in North Wales.
Operation Snap was trialled by North Wales Police during the autumn of 2016. The scheme encouraged drivers to upload video evidence of possibly dangerous driving to a police website. Dangerous driving includes people being distracted while using handheld mobile phones, not wearing seatbelts and speeding.
North Wales Police receives three to four submissions on weekdays and up to 10 at weekends. The force says it has dealt with 129 cases as a result of footage submitted during the trial.
The expansion of Operation Snap will link into the Go Safe road safety partnership that operate across Wales. The partnership is made up of 27 equal partners including the 22 unitary authorities in Wales, four Welsh Police Forces and the Welsh Government. It also works with Public Health Wales and fire services in Wales.
Video footage submitted to Operation Snap has to be unedited and include the whole journey, not just the incident. Members of the public are also told not to post footage on social media or to remove footage if it has already been posted.
Inspector Dave Cust of North Wales Police Roads Policing Unit, said Operation Snap had saved police about 12 hours' work per case, as investigating an allegation of bad driving could take up a lot of resources.
Footage could also be used to prove innocence as well as guilt, he said.
“There was a woman who went through a green light and hit a car,” the inspector told the BBC. “Two members of the public said she went through a red light and she was going too fast. The camera proved differently,” he said. It's proper, reliable evidence.”
Police forces from other parts of the UK, Australia and Hong Kong are reported to have approached the Welsh forces about the scheme.
However, a road safety charity has warned that drivers using dashboard cameras for evidence in road incidents may not lead to an increase in prosecutions for dangerous driving. IAM RoadSmart has suggested that such an approach may even lead to fewer visible traffic patrols as officers spend time analysing amateur footage.
IAM RoadSmart has urged caution, suggesting drivers could potentially be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking a dashcam will protect them or exonerate them from all blame in the event of a crash.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “Drivers are potentially lulled into a false sense of security in thinking a dashcam will protect them or exonerate them from all blame in the event of a crash – when in fact the opposite might be the case.
“Dash cam footage often does not show the full picture of a crash – often being too short, poor quality, failing to show how a crash developed or only showing one very restricted angle.”
Greig is also concerned that there is no consistency over which police forces would accept dashcam footage. While both North and South Wales Police now welcome dashcam footage through Operation Snap, Greig said the situation is vastly different or unknown by many across the country.
“IAM RoadSmart is calling for consistent national guidelines on the standard of dash cam footage required for prosecutions, what the police will do with it and how to submit it in the correct way,” he said. “Our members are very supportive of high profile policing but it takes time for police to evaluate the footage, decide what to follow up, trace the driver, serve paperwork and then obtain a successful prosecution within legal time limits. Our main concern is that dash cams must not become a replacement for fully trained officer undertaking high profile roads policing.
“A dashcam isn’t the be-all and end-all. People need to realise they must improve their own standards of driving as well as expecting others to do the same. IAM RoadSmart is very concerned that drivers might be investing in a dash cam as a substitute for better driving, instead of using it as a back-up. In many ways a dashcam is the end of the line; real accident prevention requires better driver training and tackling ingrained attitudes and behaviours.”
In 2015, The Daily Telegraph reported that sales of dashcams had increased by 918%, and that many insurance companies now accept footage as part of insurance claims.
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