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

National Highways Traffic Officers are visible on the UK’s motorways and major roads, but what powers do these vital safety officer have to issue fines and stop drivers?

We have all the information you need in one place to help ensure a safer journey for you and your passengers.

Highways England Traffic Officer stopping traffic on a motorway as an incident is dealt withNational Highways Traffic Officer stopping cars on a motorway as an incident is dealt with  (Credit: Chris McKenna)

Are motorway traffic officers the police?

The cars they driver 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 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 do the traffic officers do?

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.

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 you 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 me with a speeding ticket?

This is a question that many people ask, but the answer is simple. No – National Highways Traffic Officer cannot issue drivers with speeding tickets.

Have they got the power to search a 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 the officers stop me on a motorway or other major road in England?

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.

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