National Highways, the organisation in charge of England’s motorways, has issued patrol staff with body cameras to help tackle abuse. The government-run company says the cameras are necessary after recording more than 200 incidents of intimidation, assault or abuse against traffic officers in just one year.

The rollout of cameras began last year and the equipment has now been issued to all traffic officers patrolling motorways and some major A-roads. According to National Highways, the cameras can “reduce the potential for confrontation” and, in the event of an incident, they also provide evidence for police investigations.

Although the term “traffic officer” and the ‘Battenburg’ liveries of their vehicles makes National Highways’ patrols look like members of the police, their role is to help at the scene of incidents, keeping people safe and ensuring the network runs as smoothly as possible. This includes supporting the emergency services and helping broken-down vehicles, as well as clearing obstructions and spills.

Highways England Land Rover Discovery

However, National Highways says abuse is becoming “an increasing problem” for traffic officers going about their work. Between January 2020 and January 2021, the organisation recorded 214 incidents of abuse, assault or intimidation, with officers being targeted with abusive language, specific threats and even physical attacks.

Whereas complaints against traffic officers have previously relied on statements from those involved, the Motorola cameras will give the police an irrefutable account of events should an incident occur. The body-worn cameras are identical to those already in service with many police forces and NHS ambulance trusts, and will reduce the need for police to trawl through conflicting reports and lengthy, time-consuming investigations.

The cameras cost National Highways around £500,000 in total, but the organisation says they will withstand “rigorous use” and capture high-quality video and audio in all weather and light conditions. Their footage is then uploaded to the cloud, and can be used as evidence in court.

“The cameras have been provided to help protect our traffic officers and will be part of their uniform,” said National Highways’ customer service director, Mel Clarke. “Like a seat-belt, we hope the camera isn’t needed, but it will be there if necessary. Our traffic officers should not have to face abuse or even threats while simply doing their job – which is to help people and keep our roads moving. We want to reassure them, and warn anyone who thinks such abuse is acceptable, that we will do all we can to support our traffic officers and vigorously pursue justice for any criminal activities directed towards them.”