Can motorway traffic officers give tickets for using a phone or speeding?


National Highways Traffic Officers (formerly known as Highways England traffic officers) are visible patrolling the UK’s motorways and major roads in cars that resemble police vehicles, but can they also issue fines or stop drivers using motorways and other major roads? Here motoring journalist and expert Pete Barden explains what these officers can and can't do.


What is a motorway traffic officer

Along with police traffic officers, National Highways traffic officers (formerly know as Highways England) operate on motorways, but their role is significantly different to that of police officers. The following information reveals what they do, what their power are - and what they can't do.

Being in possession of this knowledge can help drivers remain safe on England's motorways - keeping them and other road users out of danger in the event of accidents or breakdowns on the network.

Are motorway traffic officers police?

The cars they drive with lights and markings make the officers look very much like regular police officers, but they are not police officers and do not have the same powers.

The officers work for National Highways, the agency tasked with looking after England's motorways and major roads, and are not employed by the police.

However, these officer provide a vital role on fast, dangerous roads, so do possess the relevant powers to help ensure the safety of drivers on major English highways.

What powers do motorway traffic officers have?

The main aim of these officers is to keep motorways and other major routes flowing freely and help to efficiently and safely deal with incidents when they do happen – such as collisions and breakdowns. They can be seen more as a traffic enforcer to help make roads safer. 

Official guidelines explaining the role of National Highways Traffic Officers describes their role in managing incidents as:

  • coordinating the resources of the emergency services
  • managing traffic to reduce incident related congestion
  • clearing debris from the carriageways
  • re-opening routes as soon as it is safe to do so
  • supporting the police

Do they have any other jobs on the motorway?

They will also help drivers if they breakdown or are involved in a collision or just about any other form of incident on the motorway.

The  officers will also deal with the removal of abandoned, broken down, or damaged vehicles from the dangerous positions to an area of relative safety.

National Highways officers also have the power to instigate temporary road closures or lane restrictions on motorways and other major roads.

Can a motorway traffic officer give me a ticket for using a mobile phone?

No – the officer cannot issue penalties to drivers using a mobile phone while driving. However, they can report drivers who are doing so to police officers and provide any evidence they have such as dashcam footage – which could then result in a penalty or prosecution.

Remember, it is permitted to use a mobile phone while driving in the event of an emergency - such as being broken down in a live lane on a motorway. 

Can a motorway traffic officer issue speeding tickets?

No – National Highways Traffic Officers cannot issue drivers with speeding tickets.  

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Do motorway traffic officers have speed cameras in their cars?

Along with not being able to issues speeding tickets, the motorway traffic officers do not have speed cameras that can collect data that can be passed on to police offers to subsequently issue speeding tickets to motorists.

However, CCTV cameras are also fitted to the Traffic Officer Vehicle fleet and this could potentially be used in the event of a crime or other incident on the motorway network.

The traffic officers also wear body-worn cameras which are used to record them going about their business. These can be used to record abuse against officers while carrying out their duties - and could be passed to the police. 

Can motorway traffic officers search your car?

No. These officers have no power to search any vehicle. They also have no power to detain a vehicle or occupants – unless it is part of a road closure they have instigated.

Can motorway traffic officers stop you?

These officers are authorised to stop or direct traffic. Ignoring orders telling you to stop is an offence which could attract a fine of up to £1,000 fine, points on your licence, or even a ban.

How can I get a job as a motorway traffic officer and how much do they earn?

Entry-level motorway traffic officers will typically earn around £23,000, but with additional shift pay and experience, this can rise to around £40,000 per year. Find out more about becoming a National Highways motorway traffic officer here

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Author: Pete Barden:

Twitter: @pete_barden

Pete Barden is a qualified journalist who has written and produced for publications including The Sun (, New Statesman Media Group, Whatcar? ( Stuff Magazine (, Fastcar Magazine (, Maxim Magazine and UK broadcast stations within the Heart network (Formerly GCAP). Pete specialises in motoring and travel content, along with news and production roles. You can find out more about Pete Barden on LinkedIn.

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