In this fact page we will cover:

  • What is roads policing
  • How roads policing in the UK works

Brake and Direct Line survey of UK drivers, 2019


What is roads policing

Roads policing is mainly viewed as simply enforcing the rules of the road but it's full remit is much broader.

Roads policing:

  • deters and detects illegal, dangerous and careless behaviour on the road
  • identifies offenders and the causes of crashes
  • educates and seeks to change the attitudes of road users
  • identifies and removes dangerous vehicles
  • prevents other forms of crime

It is entirely appropriate, legitimate and necessary that policing our roads means tackling drivers who break the law by engaging in behaviours that cause harm

NPCC, National roads policing strategy 2022-2025

How roads policing in the UK works

The Home Office is responsible for policing in Great Britain (in Northern Ireland, this role is taken by the Department of Justice). Roads policing is not currently deemed a national strategic priority by the Home Office and is instead viewed as a local issue to be determined by Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs).

The Department for Transport, which sets road safety policy and has a responsibility for maintaining high standards of safety and security in transport, works with the Home Office at the intersection of roads policing and road safety.

Police and Crime Commissioners and local policing

Roads policing in the UK is shaped by local priorities. In England and Wales, roads policing is covered by 43 local police forces each led by a Chief Constable and answerable to a locally elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). Roads policing in Scotland is covered by Police Scotland and in Northern Ireland by Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Police and Crime Commissioners are elected officials whose role is to make sure that local police meet the needs of the community. More information on the role of PCCs can be found via the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC).

National roads policing coordination

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) plays a role in bringing police forces in the UK together to help policing coordinate operations. The NPCC has a road policing strategy (2022-2025) with four main objectives:

  1. Preventing harm and saving lives;
  2. Tackling crime;
  3. Driving technology and innovation;
  4. Changing minds.

Roads policing and the 'fatal four'

The 'fatal four' are offences prioritised by the police in the NPCC road policing strategy, to reduce the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on the roads. The fatal four offences are:

  1. Speeding
  2. Drink and drug driving
  3. Driving while distracted
  4. Non-wearing of seat-belts
Dedicated roads policing officers make up just
of total police force strength, in England & Wales

Other roads policing actors

The enforcement of the laws and regulations of the roads is also the responsibility of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), as well as the police. Local authorities have also adopted a role in enforcement which, rather than safety, primarily relates to managing traffic flow. Traffic Commissioners are regulatory tribunals responsible for oversight of commercial vehicle operator standards and vocational drivers.

Road safety partnerships bring together organisations including the police, fire and rescue services, local authorities, and community and health stakeholders to deliver road safety initiatives. Road safety partnerships have no statutory basis and vary in scope and size but play an important role in coordianting activity.

Six in ten UK drivers believe government should make roads policing an investment priority with just one in ten disagreeing - Brake and Direct Line survey, 2019

Listen to our Time to Zero In podcast on roads enforcement

This page was updated in February 2024.