As Secretariat for WMPRHRT we’re pleased to report on this approach adopted by them and described by PC Mark Hodson at the Leicester University Law School March 29th conference on Law Enforcement and Vulnerable Road Users.
Operation Zig Zag is another example of how West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team approach enforcement by targeting danger at source – concentrating on driver behaviour as it’s this which poses most threat of harm to the community.
In the last quarter of 2018 in the West Midlands Police area there were 23 deaths in Road Traffic Collisions (RTCs), 20 were pedestrians, 2 cyclists and 1 driver. The impetus for the operation was “the need for an operation combining the right enforcement and media strategy resulting in a true and proper deterrent against those who pose the greatest threat of harm”. Analysis of the last 2 years data on Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) pedestrian involved collisions shows that 38% occurred at or near pedestrian crossings; 30% were under 15 and 50% under 25; the majority occurred at educational, retail or recreational locations.
Three tactics are employed for such locations:
• Community Speedwatch – New Standardised Policy.
• PCSO Speed enforcement – community driven, flexible, constant & targeted.
• Operation Zig Zag – stimulated by locational trigger of “Zig Zag” lines.
How Operation Zig Zag works
The locations involved are those (crossings, schools, shopping areas presence of heavy traffic) with the presence of Zig Zag road markings, and with evidence of distraction offences or excess speed at the location. Aggravating factors are evidenced to attain a Category 1 (court only disposal): the sentencing outcome starts at 7 points or a discretionary ban, with fine and costs amounting to some £550. Charges are under Section 2 and 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (dangerous driving and careless driving/driving without due care and attention) only.
Distraction offences(normally forms of mobile phone or similar device use, but could be drinking from cup) are seen by a covert or overt spotter with a body cam/ or helmet cam. Police motorcyclist or bicyclist are used for this.
Speed offences – start lower than the usual WMP enforcement threshold (37mph) so for a 30 mph limit :
• 35 – 41mph – S3RTA1988 standard disposal
• 41 – 49mph – S3RTA1988 Court disposal only
• 50 mph + – S2RTA1988
Results from Operation Zig Zag in 2019
• 72 court only disposal (Cat 1) Due Care offences and 3 Dangerous Drive offences
• 17 Due Care offences dealt with in the normal manner, so potential to still be dealt with at court for a Category 1 Due Care Offence 7-9 points with discretionary disqualification / band C fine (175 %)
• All police led prosecutions, WMPRHRT fill a court with 30 Zig Zag cases at a time
• Dangerous Drive offences postal charged and CPS prosecuted under Op Zig Zag guidelines
• Police led prosecutor aims for disqualification for S3SRTA offences
• Even the least sentence available is far greater than what the offender would receive if just a normal speed check or distraction offence.
• First court with 27 offenders in a morning was on 11th April with the Police led Prosecutor pressing for a disqualification for the worst offences and the slower speeds getting a minimum of 7 points. There were 3 not guilty pleas, adjourned (which may plead guilty) 24 guilty pleas resulting typically in 7/8 points, with average costs = £550,and 2 cases adjourned for disqualification.
This all takes place in association with:
• Operation Close Pass: Addressing close passing of cyclists in contravention of Rule 163 of the Highway Code.
• Operation Top Deck : Use of officers on buses to spot mobile phone offences.
• Operation Park Safe: To deter dangerous illegal parking on footways and other locations such as at crossings.
• 3rd party reporting: In the first quarter of 2019 WMP had 600 3rd party prosecutions from dash cams, cycle helmet and light cams. There’s an interest from WMPRHRT officers to now get footage from leisure/sport cyclists riding on rural roads as well as the commuting cyclists who have been the concern so far.