Police get new tech to instantly check drivers’ identities at the roadside

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System gives officers access to DVLA database

Police around the UK can now instantly access photographs of drivers held on a national database to check the identities of suspected lawbreakers at the roadside.

The new technology allows officers to call up the photograph held on the DVLA’s driver database to check that a motorist really is who they claim to be.

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The Home Office and Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency say that the system that links police with the database has already saved officers a collective 14,000 hours since a pilot scheme was launched in 2019.

Police can now instantly access the photo held on the DVLA databasePolice can now instantly access the photo held on the DVLA database
Police can now instantly access the photo held on the DVLA database

According to the DVLA, without access to the database, roadside checks for motoring offences can take more than a quarter of an hour as officers validate the details given by a driver. In some cases drivers suspected of an offence are arrested while checks are carried out at a police station.

Since the pilot began in August 2019 the images of 86,513 drivers have been checked by police, who use the name and address given by a driver to obtain their unique driving licence number. This allows officers to call up the image associated with that licence and check that it matches the driver they have stopped. The images are only accessible during the check and aren’t retained, and the checks are restricted to road policing matters.

The system is currently being used by 18 forces in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the technology due to be rolled out to 10 more forces in the coming weeks. Eventually, all 48 forces around the UK will have roadside access to the DVLA database.

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Roads Minister Baroness Vere said: “This government is constantly striving to be at the forefront of technological advances and this particular development will not only free up valuable police time but also make sure innocent drivers can get back on their journeys quicker.”

The new system comes as the DVLA explores the idea of a digital driving licence. There are plans for a trial of digital provisional driving licences to examine the viability of offering digital versions of the full driving licence.

Julie Lennard, DVLA chief executive, added: “As a digital organisation we are always looking at ways to bring technological developments into the public domain – providing improvements that can directly benefit citizens. The ability to support quicker and more robust roadside checks for motoring offences through the better use of technology is something we were pleased to help deliver.”

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