These two roles will see you managing traffic flows, but they are quite different.
Highways England Traffic Officers
Traffic Officers have the power to stop and direct traffic, close lanes and carriageways and manage traffic. The public must obey a Traffic Officer’s directions and it’s an offence punishable with a fine of up to £1,000 and points or a disqualification for not complying.
Traffic Officers keep roads running smoothly by attending accidents and ensuring the scene is safe, dealing with broken down and abandoned vehicles, and removing vehicles that are causing a blockage or hazard. They control electronic messaging signs and supply information for local travel reports.
Traffic Officers also coordinate emergency services resources at accident scenes, clear the carriageway of debris, manage traffic and support the police. The key role of a Traffic Officer is to get traffic moving as quickly as possible and to keep traffic flowing smoothly.
Requirements for the job include the ability to drive, preferably some experience in customer care industries. Traffic Officers travel in pairs usually in a high-visibility SUV or 4×4.
Police drivers have a diverse and interesting role within the police force. If you love driving and also fancy being a member of the police force it is a job that might be fulfilling for you. In fact, if you get to the pinnacle of this training, then you will be considered one of the highest performing emergency response drivers in the world as the UK system of training is lauded worldwide as the best.
Police officers learn the Roadcraft method of car control. This was developed back in 1935 when the first police driving school was established. It’s been updated and improved over the years with the input of thousands of advanced drivers, which means it’s unlikely to be changed in favour of a new system until fully or semi-autonomous pursuit cars become available (but that’s another story).
It’s very competitive to get a job as a police driver – hundreds of people apply a year, but jobs are advertised only a few times a year. You must have completed your 2-year probation in the police force before you can be considered.
The basic police driving course for police recruits is three weeks. This is called Standard A and it teaches basic skills required to operate a standard police vehicle. The next level of training is Standard B and it vastly improves the officer’s driving skills. It lasts three weeks. If you want to engage in police pursuits there’s an additional three weeks of intense driver training, some of it at speeds in excess of 130mph on undivided roads. It is only available to traffic patrol officers.
Police driver training is conducted in and around Hendon in London and consists of:
- Advance Car
- Response Car
- Off Road – Motorcycle and Car
- Advance Motorcycle
- Response Motorcycle
- Heavy Goods Vehicle
- Anti Hijack Protection Driving
- Tactical Pursuit and Containment (TPAC)
What does a police driver do?
A police officer could be working anywhere from highly urbanised centres like the middle of London, through to sparsely populated rural areas such as the north-west of Scotland. The main facets of the job are:
- Uphold laws on the road – ensure road users stick to the rules for safe driving, including adherence to alcohol, drugs and speed restrictions, and vehicle MoT and registration
- Be a visible deterrent to offending
- Attend vehicle accidents and:
- Provide first aid where required
- Take detailed notes
- Remove debris from the carriageway
- Set up cordons and road closures
- Pursue offenders that flee
- Support events that require changes to road usage or that create hazards, e.g. parades
- Work with external agencies to support them where they need traffic assistance
- Attend court when required to give evidence
- Escort vehicles with dignitaries, or dangerous loads
- Remove animals from the road (e.g. escaped livestock)
- Maintain knowledge of traffic laws
The application questionnaire is the first part of the selection process. There’s also a diversity questionnaire which isn’t compulsory. Send off your physical application form via courier or recorded delivery and make sure you are not late. You may be able to submit some forms online rather than send physical mail.
If you get through the first step you will be invited to attend a comprehensive assessment centre where you’ll be tested in different scenarios.
There are also checks for your nationality, qualifications, criminal record and health.
If you pass all these then you may receive an offer of appointment. This might not be for a job straight away as it will depend on whether there is a job available. You may have to wait a while and will be notified when a vacancy becomes available.
If you want to be a motorcycle officer then you will need to pass your motorcycle test.
If you are interested, then you first need to be accepted into police training. This page is a good place to start.
This video explains different roles within the police that call for driving, including response vehicles, personnel carrying vehicles, and roles used for protections.
This video is a commentary drive by a senior police officer attending an emergency. It demonstrates the style of driving and awareness that is needed when in this kind of situation, travelling at high speed through urban areas with slow traffic.
Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.