On Friday 28 December 2012, North Yorkshire Police stepped up the annual Christmas drink and drug driving campaign in Harrogate with a show of force using additional resource.
Harrogate-News joined the team on Operation Attention for briefing at 6pm before heading out onto the streets. The Harrogate operation was led by Traffic Sergeant Paul Cording, an officer of many years of experience. At the briefing, Sergeant Cording explained that there would be a number of units on static position, on key roads within the town using laser speed gun. There would also be additional patrols looking for vehicles where they had a reason to stop such as erratic driving or lights not working. All drivers stopped would then receive a breathalyser test.
We headed out to Leeds Road in a high specification Audi Estate and parked up in a side street. The officer then positioned himself on the main road so that he could use the laser speed gun as traffic were heading out of the town. The speed limit was 30mph and the road conditions and visibility were good. Using sighting on the speed gun was possible to take speed and distance measurements from a considerable distance away.
Vehicles speed was checked at around 100metres away, long before a driver would likely notice an officer in a fluorescent jacket.
While most people appreciate that there is degree of speeding happening on Harrogate roads, it was a little shocking to see the number that actually were. Approximately 75% of vehicles were travelling at more than the allowed speed limit and the officer could just pick a speeding vehicle at will.
Two taxis were stopped in the time with them. While the same rules of the road apply, the Harrogate Borough Council Taxi licensing team would likely take a very dim view.
If the speed was recorded above the limit, the officer stepped into the road and directed the driver to pull into the side street. The action taken from there depended upon the speed being recorded. In a number of cases, where the speed was just above the limit, the person was given a respectful talking to. Many claimed to not live in the area and to not be aware of the speed limit.
In a number of cases the drivers were cautioned and then given a speeding ticket. Depending on the speed and drivers previous convictions for speed offences, there are a number of outcomes:-
If the driver is given a ticket then, if the speed is significant the matter would go straight to Court. If the speed is lower then the driver has the option of taking a fixed penalty fine or attend a speed awareness course at a cost to the driver. If the driver has previously been on a speed awareness course then an option to attend a second time is not available.
In all cases the drivers were breathalysed using a road-side device. The officer explained that it was a non-evidential device meaning that any drivers showing of the limit would then be taken to the station for a more accurate test.
An hour-in the officer told me to get in the vehicle, explaining that a call had been received of an RTC (Road Traffic Collision) in Knaresborough. Back onto the Leeds Road and the 999 button was pressed on the dashboard, possibly the most exciting button you could have on any vehicle –the blue lights were on, as were the sirens and we were on our way to Knaresborough.
There was little detail of the incident at that time, only location and vehicle involved. 7 minutes later we were in Knaresborough and the officer was talking to the driver at the single vehicle incident. The air bags had deployed and the driver and passenger was visibly shaken with some significant damage to a heavy stone wall. Luckily the occupants were unhurt and did not need any medical treatment.
Leaving the scene of the traffic incident, we went on mobile patrol around the town centre and then swapped to accompanying another officer, this time in a Landrover Discovery and on mobile patrol, with a number of vehicles being stopped.
Finishing with the police at 1am, the journey from the Beckwith Head Station gave time to reflect on the evening. There were no positive breath tests over the evening, but many vehicles had been stopped.
It was impressive in how police resources were directed to where they were needed, often with a much larger turnout as a precaution, but being quickly re-deployed when stood down.
The number of motorists speeding on the Leeds Road was a surprise. While some will no doubt say that it used to be a 40mph stretch of road, the fact is that it isn’t and the speed limit is being flouted.
The officers themselves retain a very calm and pragmatic view
Overall 100 drivers have now been arrested in the North Yorkshire’s Christmas Drink and Drug driving campaign.
Thanks need to be given to North Yorkshire Police for allowing Harrogate-News to join them. Their support is greatly appreciated.
Follow the North Yorkshire Police Road Policing on Twitter @NYorksRPG