As we find an increasing amount of our lives lives are being monitored, fears of ‘Big Brother’ and the invasive control of the state are raised.

Comparisons to George Orwell’s celebrated novel ‘1984’ are frequently cited, along with concern that we continue to row closer and closer to the formation of the ‘thought police’.

However, it is also agreed that, in some cases, this technologically enhanced monitoring can prove life saving.

Not just a number

A new project has  been looking into Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology. Originally rolled out as an effective way to prevent and track potentially dangerous criminals across the country, especially in relation to terrorism, it has now become an accepted reality on the UK road network and beyond.

However, this investigation has been looking at whether it might be used to improve road safety outcomes.

The 12-month ANPR Capability Project, jointly funded by The Road Safety Trust and Gloucestershire Constabulary, was carried out under the stewardship of the force’s Director of Specialist Operations, Superintendent Paul Keasey.

Better united

The project found that ANPR can help encourage multi-departmental and multi-agency collaborative efforts towards tackling those drivers and vehicle keepers that present the highest safety risk to themselves and other road users.

Similarly, it can help make better use of roads policing resource by helping to prioritise enforcement and compliance interventions.

Ruth Purdie OBE, Chief Executive of The Road Safety Trust, said: “This project has clearly identified the benefits of ANPR when it comes to improving road safety.

“The findings have the potential to safeguard road users – and ultimately save lives.”

In the driving seat

As part of the project, a series of pilot activities were designed, conducted, and evaluated.

One of the pilots was carried out with Trading Standards. It aimed to ensure that registration plates are correctly issued and meet minimum standards, so that they can be read by ANPR technology.

A second developed a range of interventions to improve Gloucestershire Constabulary’s operational capability with ANPR technology.

Such was the quality of this work; it formed the basis of a successful application to the Home Office’s Safer Streets Fund and led to the establishment of the ANPR Uplift Programme.

More for less

The  ANPR Uplift Programme ams to significantly enhance the force’s ANPR estate and capability.

The approach taken with this exercise has been fed back to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) ANPR portfolio, with elements of the findings being acknowledged as being highly relevant to capability levels in other forces.

Superintendent Paul Keasey said: “People should be able to feel safe and travel safely around our county. It is our belief that safe roads are a foundation of a safe Gloucestershire.

“Working closely with The Road Safety Trust, this project has significantly enhanced and evolved our ability to maximise ANPR capability, thus positively influencing road user behaviour and improving driving culture, which will continue to be critical if we are to improve road safety.”