We’ve all seen traffic officers on motorways, but what exactly is their role and do they have any powers to stop and fine drivers?
Here’s all you need to know right here.
Are motorway traffic officers part of the police force?
With powerful four-wheel-drive vehicles sporting high-visibility decals and flashing lights, it’s easy to see why motorway traffic officers could be confused with police officers. However, they are employed by Highways England and not affiliated with the police force in any way.
What is their job?
The primary job of a Highways England traffic officer is to patrol the UK’s motorways and help keep traffic flowing smoothly.
Traffic officers help the process of managing incidents on motorways by:
- coordinating the resources of the emergency services
- managing traffic to reduce incident related congestion
- clearing debris from the carriageways
- re-opening routes as soon as it is safe to do so
- supporting the police
What other responsibilities do they have?
Traffic officers will also keep motorists informed about incidents by passing on information through electronic signs on the motorway network. They will also assist if you breakdown or are involved in a collision or other incident.
They will also remove abandoned vehicles and organise mobile and temporary road closures.
Can a traffic officer give me a ticket for speeding?
No! Currently, traffic officers cannot stop you for speeding, or issue a ticket. In fact, they cannot stop you for any driving offence. Additionally, traffic officers have no powers to search your vehicle. Traffic officers can pass details to the police if they witness dangerous driving or other offences.
However, this might not remain the case for much longer. Government Ministers are looking at expanding the role of traffic officers, where they could be given powers to deal with common offences such as speeding and drivers using their mobile phone.
Can a traffic officer stop me on a motorway?
Yes. Traffic officers have the power to stop and direct traffic. Ignoring a traffic officer who orders you to stop is an offence and could result in a £1,000 fine. It could also mean points on your driving licence, or even disqualification.
How do I know if a traffic officer is trying to stop me?
To stop you, the traffic officer must be in uniform. The officer will always be in a marked car and will typically attract your attention with flashing amber lights. The officer may also direct you to pull over by pointing or using the left indicator. You must pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so and then switch off your engine.
Rule 108 of the Highway Code covers how traffic officers stop you:
“Traffic officers have powers to stop vehicles on most motorways and some ‘A’ class roads, in England only. If traffic officers in uniform want to stop your vehicle on safety grounds (e.g. an insecure load) they will, where possible, attract your attention by
- Flashing amber lights, usually from behind
- Directing you to pull over to the side by pointing and/or using the left indicator.
You MUST then pull over and stop as soon as it is safe to do so. Then switch off your engine. It is an offence not to comply with their directions”
Can the traffic officer remove my car from the motorway?
If a vehicle breaks down or is damaged in an accident, a traffic officer can attend the scene and have the vehicle removed. They must attempt to check if this has already been arranged by the owner. If the owner can’t be contacted or the vehicle has been left in a dangerous position, the traffic officer can have the vehicle removed. The vehicle will not be released until the owner settles the cost of removal. Costs range from £150-£300 for cars. Find full details of costs here.
How can I tell if it is a genuine traffic officer telling me to stop?
Firstly, traffic officers can only stop you on motorways and some A roads. Additionally, it must be a marked vehicle and the officers must be in uniform.