Many of us who use the roads see poor driving on a fairly regular basis, and many choose to carry cameras as a result. As more drivers, cyclists and motorcyclists use cameras on their day to day journeys, submission of video evidence to police is skyrocketing.
Across the UK a growing number of police forces have introduced online portals for members of the public to submit footage of bad driving, whether cyclists and motorcyclists with helmet cams, or drivers with dash cams. Theoretically, if you have a camera, reporting poor driving is becoming ever easier.
But how do you ensure the evidence you're submitting is good enough?
Although forces’ submission portals differ, what they need evidentially varies very little – such as footage that is submitted quickly, with enough information to bring the worst driving to book.
West Midlands Police is expecting 3,000 camera footage submissions this year via their online portal. What started as a trickle became a tidal wave. However, the proportion of cases in which no further action is taken is still fairly high (between 25% and more than 50%), either because evidence wasn't good enough or it was submitted too late.
West Midlands Police Traffic Investigation Unit Manager, Stuart Baker, has given us some tips for submitting evidence.
1. You’ll need good enough footage.
Police don’t specify video quality for submission but in any incident the vehicle number plate needs to be clear. Check your camera can pick up moving number plates. In the case of close passes, the most effective setup is one camera on the front, one on the rear of the bike. It’s worth noting cameras mounted to helmets make it trickier, but not impossible, for police to tell how close drivers are when overtaking.
2. Ensure the time and date are correct on your camera.
This can be resolved later, usually with a statement from the user, but it’s easier for police if it’s right in the first place.
3. Capture video footage of the incident and the vehicle as best you can.
Capturing not only the incident and the vehicle, but images of the driver, too will help police identify them later on. More tips on mobile phones, below.
4. Try to stay as calm as possible during any incident
Keep cool during the incident, and above all, don’t put yourself in danger. Baker recommends you don’t enter into discussions or engage with the offending driver to point out what they have done and what you intend to do; obtain the footage and carry on your journey. Remember, it’s up to police to deal with bad driving, and camera evidence helps them do that. Police will assess both your riding and a driver’s driving later.
5. Submit footage early – worry about details later.
Police need to send a notice of intended prosecution to vehicle owners within 14 days of the incident, so if you’ve caught something on camera there isn’t a day to waste. As Baker puts it: “We can get further details at a later date, we just need footage of the incident to make sure we’re happy something has occurred”. It goes without saying the person reporting needs to keep the full footage in case it’s needed later.
6. Write a good statement with your camera footage
Your statement is submitted at the same time as the footage. Keep to the facts, rather than opinion. Your statement needs to cover the following:
a. What the driver did
b. Whether they were moving/stationary at the time
c. If they were in traffic
d. Whether it was at a junction
e. What the road conditions were
7. Mobile phone offences need more detail of the driver and what they're doing
For mobile phone offences try to capture:
a. The device screen, if it is illuminated
b. If the device is being held to the driver’s face and they can be seen talking
c. Texting/fingers or thumb moving across the screen
d. Looking down at the device, rather than the road ahead – whether stationary or moving
e. The length of time the driver is using the device
8. Keep all of the footage you have of the incident.
Once submitted, police will consider the manner of driving and cycling of ALL involved in the incident, and may ask you for the full footage, should the matter proceed to court. They usually need the incident itself, and a minute of footage either side.
9. You may not hear back straight away
You may not receive a response from police saying what action is being taken. That doesn’t mean they aren’t doing anything. West Midlands Police say while they review all footage, they don’t respond to all submissions, choosing to focus resources on reviewing and investigation of incidents. They will generally only make contact if the matter goes to court.
10. Above all, enjoy the ride.
To make it a neat ten, but also for perspective. We take up cycling because it’s convenient, fun, healthy and saves us money. Most drivers want to do the right thing and drive safely. Don’t let a few bad eggs ruin your rides.