Are the Police Exempt from Road Traffic Laws?

I’ve noticed a lot of comments on my Youtube videos suggesting the police are exempt from driving regulations. Apparently, they can park on double yellows, exceed the speed limit, carve up other drivers and use their mobile phones whilst driving and all they need to is speak the magic words: ‘policing purpose’.

The Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 and The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 exempts emergency vehicles from the observance of speed limits, observing keep left/right signs and complying with red traffic signals, if it would hinder the use of the vehicle for policing purposes. Although there is no legal definition as to what ‘policing purpose’ is, there are plenty of Home Office rules and force policy that determines what it is not. Besides which, ‘policing purpose’ would be determined as a matter of fact, not opinion. Even if a ‘policing purpose’ does exist, it is not a blanket excuse to abandon safe driving. The police still have a duty of care to the public on the roads, regardless of their purpose. They follow force policy and obey road traffic laws at all times – just like the rest of us – except in justifiable circumstances.

Despite this, cops are caught every day in patrol cars driving past traffic cameras at speed, parking illegally and dodging tickets. But they are only exempt from penalty if the evidence clearly shows that blue lights were displayed and they hold the appropriate licence. Otherwise, the police driver will be required to provide confirmation of the use of the vehicle and that it falls within a policing purpose. To make matters more awkward for any cop thinking of flouting the law for his own ends, there are 3 different types of licensed police driver which decide whether or not an exemption applies:

The police driver cannot exceed the speed limit or contravene road signs – no exemption should be permitted. Holders of a BASIC driving authority are allowed to drive police vehicles on enquiries only. The vehicle may not be used to respond to incidents of an urgent nature. Emergency equipment fitted to the vehicle (blue lights and sirens) may not be operated whilst the vehicle is in motion.

The police driver cannot exceed the speed limit by more than 20mph. If responding to an emergency incident then can claim exemption under existing procedures. Holders of a STANDARD driving authority can claim exemption under Section 87 in appropriate circumstances, but must not exceed the speed limit by more than 20mph. Those drivers exceeding the speed limit by between 20mph – 29mph without serious justification will receive management advice. Speeds in excess of 30mph above the speed limit may be dealt with as misconduct and dependent upon the level, resolved at a misconduct meeting with the divisional Chief Inspector.

No upper limits, if responding to an emergency incident then can claim the exemption under the legislation. Holders of an ADVANCED driving authority have no upper limit if responding to an emergency incident but must be able to fully justify their speed.

Police drivers and their apologists, may very well believe that cops are exempt from road traffic regulations, but force policy and the law says otherwise.