Story after story continues to come across our desk, or is sent down the airwaves, about attacks on licensed drivers. Of course these incidents have been going on for decades; it’s just that with social media and improved immediate communication all round, we’re hearing about a lot more of them. And they are on the increase, no doubt about that.
We kicked off our driver safety campaign in the summer, starting with the “No excuse for abuse” stickers which can be obtained from PHTM and the National Association. We’ve also devised a “Zero Tolerance” poster for displaying in as many private hire bases as possible. But the main thrust – and surely the main preventative measure – must be an in-car solid state CCTV system for as many licensed vehicles as possible.
We’ve often quoted the study conducted in Sheffield over ten years ago; this was submitted to the Department for Transport for consideration by the recent Task and Finish group on taxi and private hire licensing matters.
The largest private hire firm in Sheffield suffered no fewer than 300+ incidents of violence, verbal abuse, racial abuse, sexual abuse, false accusations, passengers doing ‘runners’ – the usual list – against their drivers over that particular Christmas and New Year period. The company provided in-car CCTV units for every vehicle on their circuit, and during the following festive season the incidents of attacks on drivers came down to single figures. That’s fact. And it’s pretty solid evidence that CCTV works.
Once again we feel that it’s important to look into the ‘nuts and bolts’ behind the workings of this CCTV equipment, as the myths and misinformation that is/are floating about surrounding this entire industry is somewhat confusing and frightening, to say the least. With particular emphasis on the data protection element of all this, so read on:-
This is only possible if the devices are “live” or remotely accessible, which in most situations is not the case. These devices are more expensive, and in cases where access to data is restricted to local authorities or authorised personnel, these devices are not supplied. If the remote access is required, then under data protection (GDPR) rules, there would have to be very strict policies in place; for example, the devices would be locked to a server (not cloud based), and password protected. It is highly unlikely that this would be a local authority server; in order to avoid any risk of unauthorised or “random” access without the driver’s knowledge, this falls under the right to a private life.
In theory yes, you own the product, you have paid for it, it is yours. However, since these are licensed vehicles, the Data Protection Act applies, which means that if you have access to it, you would need to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as a data controller here: https://ico.org.uk/registration/new
This costs £40 per year, and you would have to follow the code of practice for the use of CCTV, and all six principles of the newly adopted GDPR, which is an absolute minefield. With that in mind, it is better to let the local authority have that headache as they have trained officers who understand those regulations and have written CCTV criteria simply to translate the regulations for drivers.
Actually it doesn’t. Dash cams can only be used for external recording, not internal, and must have the sound clearly and visibly disabled.
If a dual lens dash cam which records internally is used, then a whole realm of rules opens up, including as referred to above:
• The equipment owner must be a data controller
• The data MUST be encrypted
• The data must be stored away from the camera head to remove the risk of the SD card being stolen or lost
• Not to mention the fact that an SD card-based device will only allow for at best three to four days’ recording cycle, which will not protect anyone from false allegations.
Actually they are allowed; although “some” authorities have excluded them, most others have seen the benefits and advantages of having one, although there are a few things to consider. The ICO rule on this is “where a monitor is in public view, the images shown must only show the same as can be seen by simply having a glance around”. The Road Traffic Act states that “the driver’s view must not be obscured” which it isn’t in this case, and “movies must not be viewed whilst driving”. These are not movies; they are simply showing the same images as you can see anyway on a CCTV monitor. This has been accepted by traffic police and by MoT testing stations along with the DVSA when seeing the monitor operational.
In order for a system to comply with all the regulations set by the ICO (not local authorities) the devices must be quite complex and detailed. This is not cheap, you are quite right, but when local authorities apply for funding for such a project, more often than not the application will be rejected based on “this funding should not be used to fund profit making businesses” - which on the strength of it does actually make sense.
Those authorities that have been successful in obtaining funding have done so on the basis of “public protection” as opposed to “driver protection” or “simplifying investigations”. Now although this goes against the grain for drivers, since it implies a risk to the public, it is a better and more successful approach to obtaining the grants. We all know they are just as much for the latter two reasons. As for the application, and when all is said and done, if funding is made available does it matter on what grounds?
Even if no funding is made available, weigh the cost of the device against the cost of legal representation and lost earnings in the event of having to defend yourself against a serious allegation. The device is going to cost you much less.
Quite right, you have indeed passed all your DBS, medicals, topographicals, paid application etc in order to obtain a licence - but your passengers have not. On top of that, these devices are installed into vehicles, which can be driven by many different drivers, so this is not about any one driver - this is about protecting you, the driver, from attacks and false allegations by providing crucial evidence when it matters most.
EBay items are not necessarily CE compliant i.e. conforming with [EU] health, safety, and environmental protection standards; they are not likely to be ICO compliant, they have not been approved by local authorities, and they don’t come with a parts and labour guarantee, which includes the installation. So whilst those products may be cheaper, as the saying goes, ‘cheaper isn’t always equal’, quite often in fact buying cheap can prove to be a costly approach in the long run.
In some areas, yes it is voluntary, such as Sheffield, Manchester, TfL [London] and many others. However some of those authorities do have an approved list, and a requirement to notify them, and it must be one of their approved devices. Some authorities do not have an approved list; this is quite risky since by doing this, there is nothing to prevent internal dash cams being used.
Many authorities have such an approval list, it is simply to show which devices meet the local and ICO conditions; this saves time and money for drivers from having to source their own - only to find at a later stage that those devices they found are not compliant, and must be removed. (such as dash cams or devices with no “panic switch” for audio).
Can anyone tell at a glance that the audio is disabled: you, your passengers or compliance officers? All it takes is one customer to make a complaint to the ICO, and they will investigate; if it is found that the audio was active, they will act - they might even act if there is no panic switch (see ICO versus Southampton.)
As recommendation 17 of the Task and Finish report shows, there is growing desire for the use of CCTV to become a national requirement. This is not a bad thing; it is not a “big brother is watching me” thing. It is to protect you: from physical assault and verbal attacks; from false allegations; from unnecessary and unjust committee hearings and prosecution in court. It provides solid evidence to local authorities, to insurance companies and to the police. And last but not least, it affords increased safety to your passengers as well as to yourself. Surely all these benefits mean that you cannot afford NOT to have CCTV.
All technical contribution to this article was provided by:
Dave Lawrie of
Safe Systems CCTV Ltd.
01706 551 212