New gadget will ease traffic jams


Traffic jams caused by police investigating road traffic accidents could soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a new gadget that is being provided to forces right across England. Previously, when cars were involved in collisions or incidents on the road, the carriageway had to remain closed while specialist investigators mapped out the area in an effort to try and establish the causes of the accident. Something which is especially important should the incident ever go to court.

However, this also meant that roads could end up being closed for several hours after the accident, as no traffic could pass through the affected area until all the required information had been recorded, often by hand. Now, police forces in England are to be provided with new 3D scanners, which allow those same specialist officers to record the exact location of vehicles, casualties and debris in a fraction of the time, hopefully clearing the road for other users before a major traffic jam can develop.

Funding from the Department of Transport, along with the support of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), will see over £2 million spent on these scanners, which will be purchased and distributed to forces around the country. Derbyshire Police alone will receive 37 scanners to improve the way in which local officers deal with the aftermath of traffic accidents.

The initiative to provide England’s police forces with this new technology is part of a government project called CLEAR, which aims to deal with all the major causes of delays and tailbacks on the country’s roads, from maintenance to accidents.

The 3D scanners will help achieve this by speeding up the investigative process following a road accident. Officers can use the hand-held tools to produce a 3D map of the area, instead of specialists  recording their findings by hand. Not only will this new technique be quicker, thereby opening roads up sooner, but the image produced can be viewed immediately by investigators on a computer screen hundreds of miles away.

The Chief Executive of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), Nick Gargan, welcomed the new investment in road policing, saying that the scanners will not only speed up the clearance of motorway accidents, but will also improve investigation techniques into traffic incidents as whole.

Meanwhile, Assistant Chief Constable Sean White, one of the leading members of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), added that the project will make a real difference in improving driving conditions for people all over the country, as well as greatly assisting officers who are trying to establish why accidents have occurred.

Finally, Roads Minister Mike Penning welcomed the enthusiasm of England’s police in using the scanners at the scene of road accidents, adding that studies had shown the new technology would decrease delays caused by these incidents by around 40 minutes.  The aim of the CLEAR initiative is not just to improve driving conditions on England’s roads, but also to help boost the economy. Research has indicated that almost £1 billion is lost to the British economy every year because of delays and traffic jams on major roads across the country.

Motorway closures during 2010 amounted to an astonishing 18,000 incidents, with main roads closed for around 20,000 hours in total. The widespread use of 3D scanners to investigate road traffic accidents is expected to cut these numbers considerably in 2012.