Police drivers are being urged to read a frequently asked questions document giving guidance on new regulations which come into force later this month.
The new regulations, effective from 30 November, set out the prescribed training that will in effect give trained police drivers the better protection in law afforded to them under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.
“The new regulations will have an impact on officers trained to drive police vehicles,” says Tim Rogers, police pursuits and driver training lead for the Federation nationally.
“Their driving will no longer be assessed by the standards of the careful, competent driver, as was previously the case, but will now be judged by those of their careful and competent colleagues who have completed the same level of prescribed training.
“The change in the law, which means police officers’ skills and professional training will be recognised, is welcomed but, as ever, there is a note of caution in that we must now ensure that all drivers are ‘in ticket’ with their training.
“My advice to any officer who is not up to date with their police driver training is very simple – don’t drive a police vehicle because if you do you could be vulnerable to prosecution.”
National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) police driving lead DCC Terry Woods has welcomed the legislative change: “I believe this is an excellent step forward for police drivers. Standardisation throughout the UK on police driving courses is essential in providing a minimum standard to all officers and making the roads safer for all.
“I would urge officers to ensure they understand the new legislation and the importance of compliance with the relevant driving refresher requirements.”
The regulations will be enshrined in law through The Road Traffic Act 1988 (PoliceDriving: Prescribed Training) Regulations 2022 and come into effect on 30 November.
The new FAQ document has been produced by the Police Federation of England and Wales and the NPCC and aims to help officers better understand the new laws regarding their driving.
“Quite simply, the previous legislation did not recognise the training that police response drivers undertake and the tactics they may need to employ when responding to emergencies or pursuing criminals,” says Tim, who for eight years has led a Federation campaign to change the laws affecting police driving.
“This new legislation is a great stride forward but, for the new test to be applied, officers must be driving for police purposes and have undertaken the prescribed training as set out in the regulations.
“Police driving schools have had months now to ensure that they are compliant with the requirements of the legislation and have undertaken self-assessment exercises.
“But the onus is on the individual officer to make sure that they only drive when they are up to date with the prescribed training as defined in the regulations and legislation.”
Training must be delivered by an accredited and licensed police driving instructor, in line with the nationally set learning standards.
Tim, who is secretary of West Midlands Police Federation, is keen to stress that there is only one standard and any divergence by any force or senior officer will mean they are denying officers the ability to respond on blues and twos.
“The new law demands that an officer’s driving, when an incident make the inquisition necessary, is assessed by a professional, knowledgeable and competent individual,” he said.
“Each force must have an appropriate mechanism by which these nationally agreed and enshrined in law standards are assessed. Locally, officers will have a driving standards unit. Nationally, and for matters requiring subject matter expert (SME) evidence, there is the NPCC SME group.
“Members of this group have received training at the West Midlands Police Federation office, delivered jointly by the Federation and the NPCC, and with complete continuing professional development (CPD) each year. As agreed by the Federation, the NPCC, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Independent Office for Police Conduct and the Home Office, they are the only people who can provide the evidence.”
As a result of the change in legislation, police driving schools are likely to be licensed in a similar way to firearms units, since there is a higher incidence of risk, and the College of Policing will issue new Authorised Professional Practice (APP).