Wednesday, December 1, 2010

UK Police Penalizing The Drivers With Snow on The Car Roof - - Reality of The Message Spreading Widely on The Internet

Beware! It's a Cyber World - - Summary:

A rapidly spreading message on the different social networks, especially, Facebook warns drivers in the UK that police will be stopping drivers with snow on the roof of their cars and issuing them with a fixed penalty consisting of a £60 fine and the loss of three points.

The reality of the message can be summarized in one word "HOAX". While drivers may be penalized if snow on the roof of their vehicles obscures their vision or is a potential danger to other motorists, the specific police campaign and fixed penalties suggested in the message are not about to take place and have been denied by police.

Message looks like the shown below:

 UK - Please forward to others - police will be stopping people from tomorrow who are driving with snow on the roof of their car and will issue fixed penalty of £60 + 3 points!!

 Beware! It's a Cyber World - - Explanation:

This message, which first began circulating as a phone text message and has now migrated to email, Facebook and other online networks, warns UK based motorists that "from tomorrow", police will be pulling over drivers with snow on the roof of their vehicles and issuing immediate penalties of £60 fines and the loss of three licence points. The message asks recipients to send on the warning to others as a means of alerting people about the supposed police campaign.

However the claims in the message are untrue. The bogus warning apparently began life as mobile phone text messages, some of which purported to be from the Humberside Police in the UK. However, Humberside Police have denied sending any such text message, noting in a statement on its website:

The Force has been made aware of bogus text messages being sent to people in the region. Roads Policing Inspector Graham Johnstone has made several radio appearances to give both driving guidance and to squash this rumour. The text messages claim to have been sent by Humberside Police and relate to the prosecution of drivers with excessive snow on their roofs. The Force has not sent this text message out and it is not the sort of text message the force would send.
Moreover, there are no credible news reports that confirm that police in the UK are about to launch such a road safety campaign. In fact, according to news reports, the Road Policing Unit in the UK advises that there is no specific legislation on driving with snow on the roof of a vehicle.

Like many such messages, the "warning" does not specify a date other than the vague reference to "tomorrow", thus ensuring that it never becomes outdated and may therefore continue to circulate for months or years to come. In such cases, "tomorrow" never comes. Thus, the message is nothing more than another foolish hoax that serves only to spread misinformation and clutter inboxes and social networks with even more pointless nonsense.

It should be noted however, that while there is no specific legislation about driving a vehicle with snow on the roof, drivers could certainly be penalized if this snow obscured their vision or was a potential danger to other motorists. The Humberside Police statement quoted above also notes:
However we urge all drivers to drive with care and ensure their vehicle is roadworthy before setting out.

If there is an excessive amount of snow on a vehicle's roof it could cause visibility problems if it shifts down over the windscreen of the vehicle or cause problems to other road users if it lands on their vehicle. Such a vehicle could be classed as being in a dangerous condition.
And a December 2010 STV news article notes:
The Road Policing Unit said that there is no specific legislation on driving with snow on the roof of a vehicle, however if it slips over the windscreen, or flies into the path of another car, it could leave the driver open to being penalised for driving without due consideration, dangerous driving, not being in proper control of the vehicle, not having a full view ahead and windows not being sufficiently clean.
Thus, while the "warning" is a hoax, it is nonetheless advisable for motorists to ensure that excessive snow is removed from the roof of vehicles before setting out. Police in the UK have regularly advised motorists to remove snow from vehicle roofs before setting out, especially in severe or challenging weather. Failure to do so could compromise road safety and drivers could indeed be penalized. However, these facts do not, in any way, legitimize the false claims in this hoax message.

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