Lifeline Loophole…

Skoda Ambulance

Image by kenjonbro via Flickr

Is the transport of human organs for transplant a valid reason for driving at 100+ mph or, is the company just trying to throw their drivers a lifeline to avoid prosecution? 

With increased public sector outsourcing of tasks to the private sector comes legal difficulties. Much of the legislation previously designed to cover work, that was once exclusively undertaken by the Emergency Services, is becoming irrelevant. Legal definitions for vehicles such as ambulances are (in many ways) no longer valid. 

This lack of legal definition is causing headaches both for Private Ambulance companies and the police. Many of those companies are actually genuine and do operate professionally however, there are also some cowboy operators. Not to mention those strange people who appear to get kicks out of pretending to be emergency services personnel. The following story has once again highlighted this issue… 

AMBULANCE drivers risk being charged for speeding because of a legal loophole that means their role in transporting organs is not recognised. (www.express.co.uk)

It would appear the speeding charge in this particular case resulted from an automated camera system. I wonder if there might have been a different initial outcome if the alleged offence had been handled by a real life police officer, one who was exercising some common sense?

The Ambulance Pages state: “Legislation in regard to the Ambulance spectrum in the UK, is probably the worst in any Country in the world. The legislation is so outdated as to be of little use in regard to the variety of duties performed by Ambulance Services in this day and age. Additionally it is so badly worded, that what little Legislation there is, can be, and often is, interpreted by Police, Crown Prosecutors and Magistrates in a totally different manner from one area of the country to another.” 

An ambulance is defined in Schedule 2 of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act (VERA) 1994 as a vehicle which: – 

  • a) is constructed or adapted for no purpose other than the carriage of sick, injured or disabled people to and from welfare centres or places where medical or dental treatment is given.
  • b) Is readily identifiable as a vehicle used for the carriage of such people by being marked “Ambulance” on both sides.

Although this Act was updated in 1994, this definition is more or less exactly the same as it was some 55 years ago. This definition is where the DVLA and the DETR make their decision that “no purpose other than the carriage of sick injured or disabled people” indicates that it is illegal to carry out the transport of Human Organs for emergency transplants, etc, because such human tissue is not regarded as a sick, injured or disabled person. 

The UK Emergency Vehicles website also has an extensive section on the use of blue lights on emergency vehicles.

The legislation defining an ‘ambulance’  is based more upon the revenue circumstances rather than the common sense and up to date reality. Now why doesn’t that surprise me?

Having said all that, the issue here is also about the original speeding ticket which raises the questions; (1) was there really a need to  travel at those speeds in the first place? (2) Isn’t this another example of a need for human (police) as opposed to automatic (camera) enforcement of traffic laws? And (3) what Health & Safety considerations are there for the ambulance river, his employer and most importantly the general public?

It could be argued that travelling between A and B at speeds of 100mph as opposed to 70mph would only result in a marginal time-saving so, is the extra speed really worth the risk?

There is also a growing lobby of those against speed cameras, including a plethora of websites professing to provide the magic excuse for escaping your speeding fine. There are also those who seek to promote the right to speed, not get caught and sod the consequences. Conversely and thankfully, there are those such as Safe Speed UK who go about things a different way. They value the concept of promoting road safety but also, present a more scientific and evidence based approach to disproving the perceived value of fixed speed camera systems.

There are also fairly substantial Health & Safety ramifications for the ambulance driver’s employer resulting from his work. Ones that need to be considered carefully.

Not with standing all of the above, it really is time that relevant laws reflect reality.

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About Dave Hasney

National Coordinator for UK SMART Recovery - Previously a Recovery Worker and prior to that a Management Consultant and H&S Practitioner - Kept sane by Angling, Good Food, Real Ale & Wine - Cynical thoughts sometimes developed from others.

Posted on 31-08-2010, in Police and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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