North Wales Police using plane in crackdown on bikers in bid to save lives

North Wales Police are using a plane to help catch bikers who are speeding and riding in an "anti-social" way in a bid to cut road deaths. As part of ongoing efforts to reduce motorcycle-related deaths and serious injuries on the roads of North Wales officers from the Roads Crime Unit held a special operation over the weekend.

Officers in marked and unmarked cars targeted the A494, A5 and A487 in the Gwynedd South area on Sunday due to the number of injuries and fatalities in that area. They used the NPAS (National Police Air Service) fixed wing aircraft to help identify those riding in an "anti-social" manner.

The force said riders were surprised to learn they had been targeted after intelligence from the aircraft. A number of tickets were issued for offences like speeding, illegal plates and no insurance.

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Temporary Sergeant Leigh McCann of the Roads Crime Unit said: “The aircraft was useful in locating and directing officers on the ground to areas where motorcycles were seen being ridden in an anti-social manner. Thankfully, the majority of road users were compliant with the law, however, those using the roads unlawfully were spoken to and dealt with by officers.

“Over 30 motorcyclists were handed Op Apex business cards which include a QR code which takes you to the Ride Craft Hub – a free online initiative highlighting safe riding techniques and common causation factors of motorcycle collisions. Several tickets were issued for offences such as excess speed, illegal number plates, no ‘L’ plates on motorcycles, no insurance and no seatbelt offences, defective exhausts and lights and driving without due care and attention. Officers also dealt with two damage-only road traffic collisions.

“We are grateful to our NPAS colleagues for providing us with an eye in the sky. They were able to provide our teams with live data – highlighting areas where motorcyclists were gathering, and more importantly, highlighting where motorcyclists were seen being ridden anti-socially.

“One large group of bikers were stopped and spoken to in the Tanygrisiau area of Blaenau Ffestiniog due to their manner of riding. They were surprised to learn of the aircraft in use. The plane even did a low flypast in the area to show their presence which was very effective."

T/Sgt McCann added: “Reducing casualties on our roads remains one of our top priorities. We will continue to focus our enforcement in an attempt to reduce any further casualties and collisions by adopting a zero-tolerance approach. However I’d like to thank the majority of the motoring public who adhered to the rules of the road.”

Operation Darwen was launched earlier this year, and is a campaign aimed at promoting rider safety and sees high visibility patrols being carried out along key routes which have been identified as risk areas. 2023 saw 89 motorcyclists killed or seriously injured (KSI) in North Wales, a 3.4% increase from the previous year and 24% higher than figures seen in 2021 and 21% higher than 2019. The total number of motorcyclist fatalities in 2023 was 8 (an increase of 33% from the previous year).

Motorcycle casualties are highly represented in the overall casualty figures, and on average represent 32% of all killed or seriously injured casualties within the region – an increase of 5%. Proportionally, KSI motorcycles have seen an increase year on year and is the highest it has been since 2020.

Temporary Inspector Jason Diamond, Operational lead for the Force’s Op Darwen campaign said: “Motorcyclists are amongst the most vulnerable groups of road users, and they are at a higher risk of injury and collision than other road users. Although a motorcyclist may not be at fault, their vulnerability invariably means that they suffer more serious injuries in a collision. We look at all motorists as part of the Op Darwen campaign, however, until early autumn, increased focus is given to motorcycle safety as larger numbers of motorcyclists take their bikes out to take advantage of the good weather and fantastic scenery we have here in North Wales.

“Every death and serious injury on our roads has a devastating impact, so we’ll use every available opportunity to speak to riders about how they can play their part in reducing the number of deaths or serious injuries on the roads. This includes travelling at an appropriate speed for the road and conditions, wearing suitably rated protective clothing and helmet and being understanding of the effects that any amount of alcohol and/or drugs could have on a rider and driver.

“We’re not trying to stop motorcyclists from riding on the roads, we’re trying to stop them from dying on them. Come here – ride safe, go home and repeat. Come here, ride dangerously, lose your licence – or your life. It’s your choice.”

All motorists are urged to be extra vigilant for motorcycles during their journeys and ensure they give sufficient room when following bikers. Similarly, drivers are reminded to continually check for motorcycles when moving off, or when emerging from junctions. Riders also have an important role to play in ensuring their own safety by travelling at an appropriate speed for the road, weather and traffic conditions, wearing high-visibility clothing and always wearing a helmet and other appropriate attire.

Motorcyclists are being encouraged to take advantage of the Bikesafe workshops which are planned for the year. Bookings can be made via www.bikesafe.co.uk

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