Police are wasting our time
Hands up if you have ever flashed your lights to warn other drivers about the presence of a mobile police speed camera?
I have, plenty of times. And I’m guessing that most other drivers have, too.
Now for the tricky bit. Hands up if you know that you are breaking the law by "obstructing police officers in the execution of their duty".
I didn’t, but I do now. And I’m infuriated.
My ignorance of the law ended last week when the police put out a statement saying that officers at Wells had stopped two motorists and warned them for flashing their lights to flag up a speed check.
A swift internet search turned up stories galore –including one where a man in his sixties was given a court fine and a criminal record for the same "offence" in Grimsby.
The issue sparked a heated office debate and quite a few Victor Meldrew "I don’t believe it" outbursts.
I have always understood that the object of police speed cameras is first and foremost to deter drivers from speeding.
The EDP used to publish every Monday the locations of the speed cameras for the coming week. That was done in agreement with the authorities, and no doubt caused plenty of people to kill their speed as they drove along the stretches of road where the cameras might be waiting.
Flashing one’s lights to warn motorists ought to be seen in the same way.
Now, I’m not going to suggest that drivers who flash their lights to warn about cameras are trying to stop speeding. No, they are doing it to help out their fellow motorists.
It’s a form of camaraderie, where road users unite against something that they loathe.
But there is also no way that anyone should be either warned or prosecuted for it.
At the moment, plenty of people believe that police speed cameras are a money-making device, not a safety measure.
By cracking down on people who flash their lights, officers are doing nothing to dispel that view. In fact, they are encouraging it.
The truth is, they should be either turning a blind eye to it or publicly thanking people for their crime prevention work.
That might sound odd, but bear with me.
If I pass a speed camera, then flash a number of drivers to warn them, surely I am preventing an offence, not committing one?
Invariably, those who are flashed will slow down to the speed limit or below. They will therefore be within the law, and less likely to be involved in the kind of incident that excess speed is a factor in.
The nub of the matter is that speed can kill. So every time somebody slows down, it is a victory for safety chiefs and another potential accident averted.
If this odd idea of "obstructing" is taken to its illogical conclusion, it begs endless questions.
What if I see two men having a fight and warn them that there’s a police officer walking towards them? Am I preventing a potentially serious crime or obstructing the officer?
And how about if my colleague is about to get in his car to drive to a meeting, and I tip him the wink that a speed camera van is parked at the top of Norwich Road in Cromer?
In future, if the police pull someone over for flashing their lights, and either warn or threaten to prosecute them for obstructing them in the execution of their duty, I think the driver should issue a warning: Let me go, or I’ll prosecute you for "wasting my time and obstructing me in the execution of my duty".
posted on 16 March 2011 08:08 bySteve Downes