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Skoda Karoq Police

Skoda Karoq joins the emergency services

Skoda Karoq Police

Once upon a time, it was the Land Rover Defender that you’d see hammering around UK roads clad in the colours of our public services. Fire and rescue, the police, the ambulance service – you name it, the Defender was on duty. These days, however, rather less agricultural machines wearing Skoda badges are out on the beat, with the Karoq SUV as the latest addition.

Keen to highlight that service record, the marque notes it has a “heritage of supplying emergency service vehicles that stretches back more than 110 years”. Skoda also points out that, in spite of the Karoq’s unassuming appearance, it’s fully up to the job, with its reliability, luggage space and 4×4 ability making it the ideal machine for public service.

The Karoq’s agreeable dynamics and a strong engine lineup are sure to be of use when weaving through a technical traffic jam slalom, as will its existing array of electronic driver safety and assistance systems.

Skoda Police

“We have worked closely with emergency services teams over the years to ensure that we are providing vehicles that are practical and can be converted to their exact requirements” said Skoda. “These vehicles are in constant use by life-saving teams and an integral requirement of any vehicle is its reliability, which Skoda delivers time and time again. The Karoq fits the bill in every way with outstanding handling, space and practicality.”

It’s not an iconic farm-hack-turned-emergency-hero like the battlefield-ready Defender, but if the service record of its siblings is anything to go by, we’re in no doubt the Karoq is fit for purpose. We happen to think it looks pretty pukka in its service livery, too.

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Exclusive: we drive a Volvo V90 police car

Volvo police carVolvo has form with police cars. Sure, your local bobby probably runs around in an Astra, while an unmarked BMW 5 Series is able to put the frights up any daring company car driver pounding up a motorway at 90mph. But the Swedish car firm has been making police cars since 1929 – and selling them to the British police since the 1960s.

Today, there are around 400 Volvo police cars on UK roads. The vast majority of these are V70 armed response vehicles or traffic cars. But, as the V70 is no longer produced, that could be about to change…

Volvo V90 police carVolvo V90 police car

Yes, say hello to the Volvo V90 police car. Here it is in Swedish livery, being tested on a frozen lake somewhere in the Northern Circle at a top secret military base. We say ‘tested’, that’s actually our man living out a childhood dream of driving a police car. On a frozen lake. Mostly sideways.

What’s the point of that?Volvo V90 police car

It’s not all in the name of fun and frolics. Honestly. Volvo’s test drivers spend at least 500 hours putting the latest police cars through their paces in hot and cold climates. The logic goes that if it can survive being driven hard in temperatures way below zero degrees, a pursuit through Bradford’s housing estates won’t phase it.

What’s under the bonnet?Volvo V90 police car

Under the bonnet of this V90 – and, indeed, all V90 police cars for now – is a standard four-cylinder D5 diesel engine. The twin-turbo unit produces 235hp and, before all the extra weight of the police equipment is added, propels the V90 to 62mph in 6.9 seconds.

What’s different, then?Volvo V90 police car

All Volvo V90 police cars are start off as standard cars, taken from the production line at the same point ordinary models are shipped off to dealers. But, rather than being loaded onto a transporter, police-cars-to-be are taken around the back of Volvo’s factory in Torslanda, near Gothenburg, and modified by the special vehicles division.

And what happens next?Volvo V90 police car

Here, a special team of converters spend around six days turning it into a cop car. A special boot frame is fitted to cope with all the gear carried by traffic officers (and prevent it flying forwards in the case of a rear-end shunt), while brakes are upgraded to help bring the heavyweight V90 to a stop. The suspension also gets upgraded, with a 300mm lift and firmer dampers. The wheels are replaced by XC90 alloys.

Is anything done in the UK?Volvo V90 police car

Once police cars arrive in the UK, they’re sent to one of a small number of specialist converters where the finishing touches are put in place. The correct radio is fitted, for example, while British ‘battenburg’ livery is applied to make it stand out.

Why are they so close to standard?Volvo V90 police car

Police cars are generally bought outright rather than leased, so police forces want to be able to get as much of their investment as possible back when it comes to resale time. As such, once you remove the kit fitted by Volvo’s special vehicles workshop, the V90 looks like pretty much any other model.

It looks rather luxurious insideVolvo V90 police car

Inside, it’s exactly as you’d expect a high-spec V90 to be. Leather seats are fitted (they wear better than cloth and are easy to wipe down), while the standard infotainment system is left in place (the aftermarket computer system that controls the blues and twos, as well as having its own sat-nav feature, is hinged to cover the standard system but can easily be lifted up).

Does it have holes in the roof?Volvo V90 police car

You used to be able to spot an ex-police car by holes in its roof where the lights were fitted. That’s not the case any more… everything is flush mounted, and cabling for the LED roof lights runs through the roof bars. All this helps when the police car has to be sold after retirement.

How long do forces keep police cars?Volvo V90 police car

Traditionally, forces would keep traffic cars for a maximum of three years and 100,000-150,000 miles. Now, budget cuts dictate that forces must keep hold of them for longer – as much as five years and several hundred thousand miles – so they need to be pretty robust.

How often are police cars serviced?Volvo V90 police car

Most police forces have their own workshop for routine servicing, which is carried out regularly, while some even invest in diagnostic equipment to enable more serious work to be carried out. Obviously, under routine police work the cars can be damaged fairly regularly – and for bodywork they’re usually returned to a local Volvo dealer.

What other challenges do forces face?Volvo V90 police car

Over the last eight or so years, all traffic cars have been diesel, with police forces keen to save money on fuel. As diesel becomes a naughty word and police need to be seen to be doing their bit, we could see a shift towards petrol or hybrid police cars. Indeed, with a plug-in hybrid T8 V90 on its way, it’d be fair to assume these might be pressed into police duty.

What about driverless tech?Volvo V90 police car

Volvo is big on autonomous technology, and safety systems such the firm’s City Safety automatic emergency braking could prove to be problematic. If a car will do everything in its power to prevent a collision, how do police carry out tactical stops that involve making contact with other vehicles? Fortunately, for now, the technology can be turned off…

And in the future?Volvo V90 police car

Who knows? Police cars are a tiny part of what Volvo does, so it won’t hold back on developing its driverless features for those rare occasions when traffic officers need to take control. Will we see driverless police cars? “Cars will outskill even police drivers,” Volvo’s special vehicles chief, Ulf Rydne, told us.

Will we see Volvo V90 police cars on UK roads?Volvo V90 police car

There are a few hoops Volvo has to jump through before we’ll see V90 police cars on the roads. It needs to be added to the Home Office framework, which means it’s approved for UK police forces. But as Swedish police have already tested the V90 and given it a 9.2/10 rating – higher than any other car ever – it’s unlikely that it won’t be approved in the UK. We ought to see V90 police cars patrolling our motorways by the end of 2017.

Fake Ferrari factory raided by police

Fake Ferrari factory raided by police

Fake Ferrari factory raided by police

Cops in Spain have raided a sweatshop that churns out bogus Ferraris and Lamborghinis using old Toyota, Ford and Peugeot models.

Police became suspicious after stopping a Toyota MR2 Ferrari lookalike in Benidorm – and traced it back to a factory in the north-eastern region of Catalonia.

When they raided the premises they discovered 14 wannabe supercars in different stages of build, along with 950 marijuana plants and all the accessories needed for a growing them.

Along with the typical MR2-based Ferrari F355 replicas, the production line also featured Ferrari 348, 360 and 430 models – as well as a fake Lamborghini – using Peugeot 406 Coupes and Ford Cougars.

A number of the models were also advertised online, priced at around £35,000.

Despite the supercar looks, all cars featured their original engines ranging from 2.0 to 2.5 litres.

“The investigation began after the intervention in Benidorm of a vehicle that simulated the appearance of a sports car of the Ferrari brand, infringing the industrial property rights of the aforementioned brand,” police said in a statement, which we’ve translated.

“Thanks to the investigation of the agents, it was possible to identify the person who carried out the manufacture of the counterfeit vehicle and its subsequent sale through second-hand sale websites.”

Replica Ferraris increased in popularity in the UK during the 90s – and a number of British firms still offer copycat kits online today.

With Toyota MR2s available for as little as £1,000, the full conversion can be carried out for less than £10,000.

Secondhand examples can be picked up for around £5,000. Just don’t expect anyone to be fooled into thinking you’ve really bought a Ferrari.

Using your phone while driving? Police are out to catch you this week

Using your phone while driving? Police are out to catch you this week

Using your phone while driving? Police are out to catch you this week

Ever tempted to use your phone while driving? You’re no better than a drink-driver – that’s the message being pushed today by the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

The police organisation is launching a week-long crackdown on mobile phone use at the wheel, ahead of heavier penalties being introduced in March.

It comes after more than 10,000 vehicles were stopped as part of a similar campaign in November, which saw 7,800 fixed penalties handed out at the roadside.

Targeted patrols in unmarked vans, high vantage points at the side of roads and even helmet cams are being used to catch distracted motorists.

“This week forces will be working to make driving distracted as socially unacceptable as drink driving through enforcing strong deterrents and powerful messages to make people think twice about their driving habits,” said the council’s lead for roads policing, chief constable Suzette Davenport.

“Encouraging results from last year’s campaign against mobile phone use show how effective new tactics and innovative approaches can be. Officers will continue to use intelligence-led tactics to target police activity and resources and catch repeat offenders.”

Drivers caught using their phone while driving could be hit with an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three penalty points. This is set to double in March.

Road safety charity Brake has welcomed the campaign, adding that more than half of 25-34-year-old drivers admit to reading or sending a text message from behind the wheel within the last year.

The organisation says the reaction times of texting drivers are 35% slower than those paying attention – while they’re also 23 times more likely to crash.

“The law needs to be much tougher with this type of offence, which appears to be growing in numbers,” said Brake’s campaigns director, Gary Rae.

“Younger drivers, especially those aged between 25 and 34, simply aren’t getting the message about the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving. Doing any other complex task while driving hugely increases your chance of crashing. These drivers are putting their own and other people’s lives in grave danger by taking this risk.”

New Vauxhall police car factory

Inside the factory that builds police cars

police_car_production_line_07Vauxhall’s new police car factory in Luton is the largest of its kind in Europe and brings 50 new jobs to the town.

The site will convert 2,500 vehicles per year for police, fire and ambulance duties, having moved from its previous location in Millbrook, Bedfordshire. Vauxhalls being lined up for ‘blues and twos’ duties include the Corsa, Astra, Insignia and Mokka, along with vans such as the Combo, Movano and Vivaro.

Vauxhall claims to be the only carmaker to offer a ‘one-stop shop’ for emergency vehicles, with everything handled at the Luton plant. This includes testing, conversions and even the remarketing of vehicles retired from duty.

Today’s police cars are a far cry from the days of The Bill and Juliet Bravo, with new vehicles equipped to battle modern threats, such as terrorism. Connectivity is key, with some Vauxhall patrol cars featuring 4G wifi and Toughbook tablets.

Dick Ellam, manager of special vehicles, said: “Through our flexible production facility, Vauxhall is able to offer a one-stop shop purchasing experience to UK emergency vehicles.

“We can deliver a wide choice of car and van models, specifically designed and rigorously-tested to meet the stringent demands of our emergency services. We can also supply turn-key vehicle solutions that enable rapid turnaround of replacement vehicles, plus we can now offer a unique in-house de-commissioning and re-marketing service.”

Last year, Vauxhall signed a deal to provide 2,000 police vehicles to 28 UK forces, including the supply of 1,200 new Astras. The company claims to enjoy a 70% market share in the UK.

In pictures: the Vauxhall police car factory

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Police are cracking down on uninsured drivers this week

Police are cracking down on uninsured drivers this week

Police are cracking down on uninsured drivers this week

Police forces across the UK have joined a nationwide campaign to tackle uninsured vehicles on UK roads.

Operation Drive Insured, launched by the National Police Chief’s Council along with the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB), aims to increase the number of uninsured cars being seized across the UK. It also plans to increase awareness of the issue – including the impact uninsured motorists can have on road-legal drivers.

To publicise the week, the MIB has revealed the UK’s uninsured hotspots – with 11 of the 20 located in the West Midlands. The organisation estimates that 117,000 vehicles in the area don’t have insurance – accounting for 3.17% of all cars on the roads.

The number one postal code in the UK for uninsured drivers is B9, which covers inner-city Birmingham including Bordesley Green, while B8 and B6 are close behind – comprising of areas including Ward End and Aston.

The rest of the top 20 locations for insured motorists are made up of areas of Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire.

MIB’s head of enforcement services, Neil Drane, said: “We are determined to reduce uninsured driving numbers in the UK.

“Nationally, we have managed to reduce the estimated total number of uninsured drivers from 2 million in 2005 to 1 million now. This is in part due to police powers to seize vehicles since 2005; writing to all drivers where doubt exists that they have insurance as part of Continuous Insurance Enforcement since 2011, and running public awareness campaigns. However, this figure is still too high and is a burden on all honest motorists.”

If you’re caught driving an insured vehicle on the road, you could face an on-the-spot £300 fine, six penalty points on your licence, and your car could be confiscated until you take out appropriate cover. If it goes to court, you face an unlimited fine and could be disqualified from driving.

Police seize around 3,000 cars a week for being uninsured – with officers using automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) technology to spot vehicles which aren’t adequately covered.

Gloucestershire Constabulary’s chief constable Suzette Davenport said: “We are delighted to be backing this awareness week. It will see police operations mounted across many areas of the UK targeting potential uninsured drivers, including daily operations in the West Midlands and London where we know the problem is acute in some areas.

“With ever-improving technology including the police’s widespread use of ANPR, Automatic Number Plate Recognition, the message from all our police forces is: you will be caught.”

'Stupid' driver arrested on suspicion of supplying drugs

‘Stupid’ driver arrested after police spot bumper sticker

'Stupid' driver arrested on suspicion of supplying drugs

Police in Cheshire have arrested a driver on suspicion of supplying drugs and stealing a car – after a bumper sticker alerted them to him.

A bright orange sticker fitted to the Ford Mondeo states “don’t follow me, I do stupid s**t”.

The police decided to have a word with the unnamed motorist in the village of Cranage, Cheshire, and have since arrested him under suspicion of drug supply and vehicle theft.

'Stupid' driver arrested on suspicion of supplying drugs

Mocking the alleged drug dealer, the police tweeted: “Driver arrested in Cranage on suspicion of drug supply and vehicle theft. Can you guess what drew our attention?”

In 2014, police in Yorkshire warned a driver that he could be arrested for a public order offence if he didn’t remove a sticker showing a gagged woman in the back of his truck.

'Stupid' driver arrested on suspicion of supplying drugs

'Stupid' driver arrested after police spot bumper sticker

'Stupid' driver arrested on suspicion of supplying drugs

Police in Cheshire have arrested a driver on suspicion of supplying drugs and stealing a car – after a bumper sticker alerted them to him.

A bright orange sticker fitted to the Ford Mondeo states “don’t follow me, I do stupid s**t”.

The police decided to have a word with the unnamed motorist in the village of Cranage, Cheshire, and have since arrested him under suspicion of drug supply and vehicle theft.

'Stupid' driver arrested on suspicion of supplying drugs

Mocking the alleged drug dealer, the police tweeted: “Driver arrested in Cranage on suspicion of drug supply and vehicle theft. Can you guess what drew our attention?”

In 2014, police in Yorkshire warned a driver that he could be arrested for a public order offence if he didn’t remove a sticker showing a gagged woman in the back of his truck.

Smart Fortwo 'Forcops'

Smart Forcops! NYPD replaces motorbikes with Smarts

Smart Fortwo 'Forcops'Smart has delivered the first 100 Fortwo city cars ordered in an innovative piece of thinking by the New York City Police Department – and the new micro-motors are already being dubbed ‘Smart Forcops’.

Replacing the city’s old three-wheel motorcycles (not dissimilar to the machine driven by Officer Judy Hopps in the animated film Zootopia), they’ve been chosen because they’re more spacious and practical than the old motorcycles, but almost as agile and, it is hoped, considerably more reliable.

They also have air conditioning – which Deputy Commissioner Robert S. Martinez believes will be a real boon to city cops during the stifling New York summers.

Forming part of the 9,000-vehicle NYPD fleet, cops have ordered 250 Smart Fortwos in total, all finished in white and blue  and fitted with a blue revolving police light on the roof. The interior is also decked out in radio equipment.

One of the first NYPD cops to drive the new Smart Fortwo ‘Forcops’ is officer Ralph Jefferson, whose beat is in Chinatown.

“The smart is spacious and agile and makes my job much easier,” he said.

“Many people say that the little patrol cars are really cute, too.” We think that’s perhaps not a look cops might be completely thrilled with, but hey – if it’s good for community relations, who are we to argue?

In pictures: Smart Fortwo ‘Forcops’

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135 drivers hit with lane hogging fines since 2013

135 drivers hit with lane hogging fines since 2013

135 drivers hit with lane hogging fines since 2013

A freedom of information investigation has discovered that just 135 on-the-spot fines have been dished out for lane hogging since police were given new powers to prosecute at the roadside in 2013.

The law was introduced in August 2013, giving police officers the power to fine motorists £100 and hit them with three points on their licence for sitting in the middle lane of the motorway.

Confusingly, of the 45 police forces questioned about the penalties, only 8 were able to give an exact number of lane hoggers they’ve prosecuted – the rest simply classed it as ‘careless driving’.

This offence also covers things like tailgating, undertaking and even driving too slowly – with 1,158 drivers hit with fines for careless driving since 2013. This means the real number of lane hogging fines could be higher, but it still means that only a few hundred lane hoggers are caught each year on average.

The investigation, carried out by Confused.com, mirrors a similar investigation by Motoring Research in 2014 – which found that police on London’s orbital motorway, the M25, dished out just 13 lane hogging fines in the first year since the law was introduced.

Confused.com’s motoring editor, Amanda Stretton, said: “Middle lanes aren’t for coasting in, because this practice can cause congestion and dangerous manoeuvres from other drivers. Not only could you find yourself with a £100 fine or points, but you could put your own life and others at risk.”

Research by the website found that almost one in five (19%) drivers say they have never been taught about middle-lane hogging – as motorways are not included in the practical driving test.

This could help explain why 50% of motorists believe that some drivers aren’t even aware that they’re staying put in the middle lane in the first place.

Worryingly, almost two-fifths (37%) of UK drivers are unaware that middle-lane hogging is an offence punishable by a fine and points on your licence.