West Midlands Police to use ‘dash cam’ footage

Midland drivers will soon be able to submit ‘dashcam’ footage of dangerous driving directly to police.

It would mean motorists could be prosecuted on the basis of video evidence sent in by fellow road users.

West Midlands Police has been drawing up the plan to deal with the huge proliferation of digital video equipment being fitted to cars.

Cyclists have also been active in their use of helmet cameras, often compiling footage and publishing it online.

The initiative is part of the force’s reorganisation, some of which looks at using technology to improve efficiency.

Although full details of how the scheme would work have yet to be released, it is likely an online form would be filled out by the complainant, along with the facility to upload the footage to police servers.

A spokesman for the West Midlands Police road traffic unit said the initiative was a result of the huge increase in numbers of cameras now being used and there were several reasons for the rise: “Some will say it is for their own protection, it’s a safeguard, others will be accused of being ‘wannabe traffic cops’ and, lastly, some have to, they have no choice, fleet and company policies will dictate the use of a camera.

“West Midlands Police is going to introduce a new way of ‘self-reporting’ due care and attention-type road traffic offences.”

But traffic officers are keen to warn drivers that submitting camera footage could be risky and the complainant could themselves be subject to legal action.

The spokesman explained: “The obvious benefit is, in the event of a collision, it can show the reason for the collision and liability. But this could work in favour of both the camera user and the non-camera user.”

The footage will have to show the period before and after the incident and the spokesman warned drivers who might want to submit a video: “The standard of your driving or riding prior to an incident will be looked at, your demeanour prior and post incident will be scrutinised, everything about you will be questioned.

“Footage from a dashcam that reveals blaring in-vehicle music, a mobile phone conversation, or the road user displaying an aggressive demeanour using language littered with profanities all paints a picture and will affect both liability, prosecution and court decisions. So, if you’re running a camera, it’s best behaviour at all times.”

Traffic officers also warned motorists about deliberately trying to ensnare other drivers and overtly criticising people’s ability behind the wheel.

The spokesman said: “I’ve often said that, aside from domestic incidents when we go into someone’s home and start taking control, I’ve never seen an average person anger so quickly and become so confrontational with the police as when their standard of driving or riding is criticised, often despite the presence of insurmountable evidence proving their road use was sub-standard.

“Most road users take it as a personal infringement on their character, mainly due to the fact that most have never stopped and considered the standard of their own riding or driving.

“If an incident does occur and you capture it on camera, stay calm, do not interact with the offender, and remember you’re being recorded also by your camera. There will be a few that submit evidence of a minor traffic offence being committed which then goes on to show themselves committing a far more serious public order offence.

“Own goals are common in such situations, the offending road user ends up with an educational course or points, the reporting camera user ends up with a criminal record.”

Police said the current method of reporting a non-injury collision which wasn’t attended by officers is a long drawn-out affair, even if footage of the incident exists, with court cases taking up to 12 months to start.

But new methods of working should mean it will be more straight forward.

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