There are some deluded factions of the motoring press that have loudly and ignorantly derided a very useful and miss-understood service that helps motorists in need and saves police time.

The motorway Traffic Officers are referred to by one loud mouthed buffoon as ‘wombles’, but they answer a long standing complaint made by hoards of motorists since the early days of motorways; why are police used to do non-police type work such as directing traffic round a crash site, staying with crash victims until help arrives, sweeping up debris off the motorway, putting out emergency signs and cones etc. The list goes on, there are a huge number of time consuming jobs that although important don’t really need an officer with the powers of arrest and a highly equipped patrol car.

For years drivers argued, mostly in pubs, that it would be far better to have someone else to do these tasks and free up the police to chase criminals. And that is exactly what the Traffic Officers were invented for, yes my friends this is a case of the government actually listening to the motoring public.

And it works too; a friend of mine was involved in an unfortunate incident when they managed to spin on a motorway slip road and ended up bouncing off both crash barriers before coming to a halt at 90 degrees to lane 1. Which is bad. The Traffic Officers arrived and immediately coned off the lane whist they pushed the wreck to a safe position, then after assessing the situation for safety they cleared up the debris and re-opened the lane very swiftly. The police arrived and took details, did a breath test and the usual checks but then were immediately free to move on to the next drama, meanwhile the TO stayed with my chum until the recovery truck arrived. They also notified the roads agency that the barrier needed mending. All in all a very efficient, helpful and potentially life saving service. What’s not to like?

Sometimes where people have been hurt they have to close the road to recover and record all the evidence which can seem like an unnecessary delay to the uninformed driver, and sometimes being better to be safe than sorry means that some delays do turn out to be unnecessary, but I for one would far rather they were reasonably cautious than risk my life.

Every time I see a TO parked up apparently doing nothing I breathe a sigh of relief that this indicates that this particular stretch of road has no problems, no one has crashed, no one is having an utterly miserable day, no one is dying, it’s damn good to see a dormant patrol car. And when I slowly crawl through a conned off incident I give a cheery waive to the TO directing the traffic and restoring order to the chaos behind them.

So why are they being lambasted in certain media circles? Probably due to a fine and heady mixture of making up a good storey, being controversial to sell more copy but mostly pig ignorance and stupidity. Just the usual then.


About Ralph Hosier

I love exploring everything the world has to offer, the fabulous beauty and intricacies of nature, the stunning majesty and grandeur of the universe, and the fascinating range of chocolates available from the local sweety shop. I have led a charmed life, sure there has been extremes, but the highs far outweigh the lows. I get paid for arsing about in very fast cars, I get to write about them and amazingly get paid for this too. My days are usually filled by making prototype and concept cars for car companies, a dream job. I have lived many of my dreams, worked all over the world, raced cars built by my own hand (and hardly ever crashed really badly), seen things and done stuff. But nothing compares to the love of Diana and my son Peter, beyond my greatest hopes. I am a chartered engineer, a member of the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), and of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) and I am a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers. A pleasing fact is that there are now more letters after my name than there are in it ;) R.Hosier B.Eng(Hons) C.Eng MIET MIMI MGoMW
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2 Responses to Wombles

  1. Sam says:

    I think there’s a general distrust of fluorescent vests.

    You make a valid point about intention being that the police are freed up to chase criminals, although in reality they’ve just been freed up to be made redundant and replaced with cheaper traffic officers.

    We don’t have to know what pay grade folks are on, but it would be much better if these people were all police officers, I think.

  2. Elwyn says:

    Wombles have a different meaning as well, Wa….. On Main Beam 🙂

    Of course, I can see their point of view that HATOs are a waste of space but I think having them is worthwhile.

    The last time I broke down on the motorway one of them came up behind me from 1/2 a mile back on the hard shoulder with all the lights on which was helpful seeing as how many vehicles had been drifting in and out of the hard shoulder.

    When they arrived they handed over the rear brake assembly that had fallen off. This explained why I had no air pressure available to release the brakes.

    Whilst they didn’t stay with me they did check in on me every time they passed which was every half hour until the brakedown unit arrived to move me off the motorway.

    In normal driving other drivers react to them as if they are a Police Vehicle. They slow down to under the speed limit JUST because they have seen something with lots of HiVis colours. Unfortunately they then also cause disruption for other drivers around them by their behaviour.

    There have been a few times when I have called the police on the motorway network and suggested that it was something HATO could deal with rather than Police, such as people broken down without lights or walking on the motoway….

    Anyway, nice Blog 😉

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