Police officer blows whistle on road safety postcode lottery


A POLICE whistleblower has revealed a road safety “postcode lottery” that could be putting lives at risk across Scotland.

It has emerged that potentially unsafe vehicles are 80 times more likely to be stopped in some parts of Scotland than others.

Police can order drivers to fix broken headlights, worn tyres, illegal number plates and other faults within a time limit or face a fine.

Data has revealed large disparities across the force
Data has revealed large disparities across the force

But the number of notices handed out across the country under the Vehicle Defect Rectification Scheme (VDRS) ranges massively – from just 55 for broken headlights in Tayside last year compared with 4,484 in Forth Valley.

The situation only emerged after a police officer got a warning notice for a car fault and was told by police friends in another part of Scotland they would have let her off.

The officer eventually complained to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) which found a “significant disparity”.

The PIRC looked in detail at police action of lighting faults on cars and found that between 2013 and 2014, police issued 5,766 notices to drivers in the Forth Valley. In the same year, just 63 drivers from Argyll and West Dunbartonshire were warned for the same offence.

Greater Glasgow – with a population of two million – saw just 373 of the notices issued last year compared with 1,036 in the Highlands and Islands.

Drivers in the Scottish Borders, Edinburgh and Renfrewshire received a total of 267 notices in the financial year 2014/15.

A table showing how many notices have been given out across Scotland
A table showing how many notices have been given out across Scotland

According to a PIRC report, an unnamed female officer made an official complaint about the inconsistencies, which she said “led to unfairness and effectively creates a ‘postcode lottery’ across Scotland.”

The PIRC investigated and concluded: “The figures appear to suggest a significant disparity between the Forth Valley area and the 13 other police divisions in respect of the number of VDRS notices being issued.”

Mike Bristow, spokesman for road safety charity Brake, said: “It’s alarming to see such discrepancies in the number of fines being issued against faulty vehicles. We want to see more traffic police on our roads, stopping driver with faulty vehicles”
Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, said: “There needs to be more of these notices handed out and it needs to be more universal.

“Your chance, as a driver, of being pulled over for a defect should be the same everywhere.

“We are all for the scheme but one person with a headlight out in the Highlands is just as dangerous as a person with a headlight out down in Glasgow.”