Civilian road patrols dubbed ‘Traffic Wombles’ may soon be given the power to fine motorists who are spotted breaking the law.
The groundbreaking move would see uniformed officials given the same powers as traffic police if drivers are seen speeding or using their mobile phones behind the wheel.
Currently there are more than 1,500 uniformed Highways England staff who monitor Britain’s motorways and A-roads.
However, this figure would be increased if the plans go ahead to introduce more of what former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson labelled ‘Traffic Wombles’.
These patrols were initially introduced in 2004 and were tasked with keeping traffic flowing during traffic jams and crashes.
However, while it is an offence to ignore their instructions, they currently do not have the power to arrest people for driving crimes – something that would change in the proposed shake-up.
Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Suzette Davenport, who speaks on roads policy on the National Police Chiefs’ Council, told the Police Federation roads policing conference: “Some of these ambitions could be delivered by enabling Highways England traffic officers to have some extra powers.
“It is not something that is a done deal but it is something that we are exploring.
“My desire is to get the maximum safety and security on our roads.”
Critics of the proposals say that road safety is too important a job to be taken out of the hands of traffic police.
Tim Rogers, of the Police Federation, said: “If you are looking at providing something as important as roads policing, having people who are potentially unaccountable to the chief constable would be a bad thing.
“Dealing with road deaths, dangerous drivers and other risks on our major road networks is a job for the police and not a private company.
“It would also mean the Highways England officers may no longer be available to do the work they were brought in for, such as clearing debris and dealing with minor collisions.”
A Government spokesman said a consultation would be conducted before any decisions were made.
Top pic: Rex