Highways England Traffic Officers
|Highways England Traffic Officers|
|A HETO patrol car beside the M25 between Junctions 21 and 21A|
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The Highways England Traffic Officer Service (abbr. HETO) is a service provided by Highways England to assist with minor incidents and recovery after accidents on the Motorway network and some high use Trunk Roads.
The service is now operated by Highways England, but they were known as Highways Agency Traffic Officers, or HATOs, before the service was transferred to Highways England with the rest of the Highways Agency responsibilities.
Origins of the Traffic Officer
Traditionally, the Highways Agency and contractors have built and maintained the motorways and the police have provided an operating role, primarily dealing with unplanned incidents like collisions. Then in 2003, a roles and responsibilities review by the Highways Agency made recommendations to transfer some of the police’s operational roles over to them.
In April 2004 the Traffic Officer Service was launched in the West Midlands and later extended to cover all 2025 miles of motorway in England from seven regional control centres and 32 outstations. Traffic Officers also operate on a small number of major trunk roads.
What do Traffic Officers do ?
Where incidents occur, the police retain responsibility for investigating any crime. They will also be in charge at the scene of major incidents on the network where there are serious injuries or fatalities involved. In these circumstances the police may need to close the whole motorway to prevent movement, destruction or contamination of any evidence and carry out a thorough investigation on behalf of the Coroner. There is only one chance to do this and the investigation must be carried out immediately after an incident otherwise passing traffic may destroy the evidence.
The Highways England Traffic Officer (HETO) role is to help coordinate the resources of the other emergency services, manage traffic and reopen roads as soon as the police have finished their investigations. When it is safe to do so, the hard shoulder or available lanes are used to allow traffic to pass the incident. Where damage has occurred they will look to carry out the minimum repair necessary and return to complete repairs at a time which will minimise delays. The Traffic Officers continue to work closely with the police and other emergency services to minimise disruption as much as possible and keep roads open wherever possible.
Powers under the Traffic Management Act 2004
Under the Traffic Management Act 2004, Traffic Officers have the power to stop and direct traffic, close lanes and carriageways and manage traffic and it is an offence not to comply with their directions. This means if you fail to follow directions given by a Traffic Officer or as indicated by their signs you could face a fine of up to £1000 as well as possible driving licence endorsement or even disqualification.
The police still have responsibility for prosecuting criminals and the Traffic Officers work together with the police in order to improve safety and reduce casualties.