An interview with the Motorway Patrol
It is 4am on a cold September morning. Patrol Sergeant Dave Chapman takes a deep draught of hot tea, standing at the service station in the shadow of the Severn Bridge. For the past two hours, he has driven from London at a sedate 55 mph, showing the flag and protecting his patch. Now he takes a well-earned break.
“Everyone seems to think that we have high-adrenaline lives; that the excitement never stops. We have our moments, but actually, most of what we do is just remind people that we are here; that there is a law; and that someone cares if they break it. That is often enough.”
Chapman is modest. A decorated officer with over 20 years on the Patrol, he has been cited for bravery on four occasions. But there is no doubt that his job can have frequent periods of boredom.
“We’ve had shifts of eight or 10 hours of driving from London to the Welsh borders and back. But I admit that it is rare when we don’t get at least one shout.”
The shouts for the Patrol are varied. Duelling remains legal on the motorways, and London’s restrictive regulations do not apply on the open highway. Unfair fights, however, are definitely frowned upon, and the Patrol will frequently intervene to terminate a mismatched engagement.
“We try not to get involved unless lives and property are at serious risk. It’s a stressful world out there, and we realise that sometimes people need to let off steam. That’s fine, as long as it does not jeopardise other travellers, or the road itself.”
Patrol Constable Jonah Smith snorts. A Patrolman for eight years, he has been Chapman’s partner for three. “Dave’s mostly right. But he still likes to stick his nose in.”