AS POOR weather and visibility create hazardous conditions at this time of year, Gwent Police officers in Blackwood have launched a new scheme, Operation Rea, in an effort to crackdown on the so-called "fatal five" traffic offences. Reporter Nicholas Thomas went on a ride-along with Gwent Police constables James Goodman and Isaac Gott to find out more about the operation.

"The operation was set up because it allows local officers to have more awareness," PC Goodman explained as he left Blackwood Police Station.

"Obviously, any fatalities in accidents hit families a lot harder at this time of year, so it's important to target people who aren't complying with the law."

The so-called "fatal five" offences are:

  • driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs 
  • speeding 
  • careless driving 
  • using a mobile phone while driving
  • not wearing a seat belt.

PCs Goodman and Gott are using a national driver database to check the vehicles they pass. If something appears strange, they will act.

(VIDEO: PC James Goodman explains the reasons behind Operation Rea)

A green Ford passes, which the database shows is registered to a female driver. But the person behind the wheel is male.

They pull him over and PC Goodman checks his details while PC Gott inspects the tyre treads – another driving offence which is hazardous at this time of year.

The driver of the Ford says he has full insurance on his own car, which allows him to drive other cars.

But as PC Goodman checks the man's details with the Motor Insurance Bureau, he explains that this commonly-held belief doesn't always ring true.

"Some policies let you drive other cars, but some don't.

"In these situations, it's worth digging a little bit more because if [somebody with the latter type of policy] has a crash, they're considered an uninsured driver."

In this case, the man's insurance covers other vehicles, so he is able to continue his journey.

But a call over the radio reveals another driver was out of luck, and has had his uninsured car impounded.

The officers are also on the lookout for drivers who aren't wearing seatbelts.

"I think people take seatbelts for granted a lot of the time, but they're there to save your life at the end of the day, " PC Goodman said.

"People forget there's only one piece of glass between you and the road."

The officers pull into a side street and observe the passing traffic.

After a few minutes, a builder's van passes, with the driver talking on the phone.

The PCs pull the van over and bring the driver into the car, where they explain the offence and take down his details.

The driver is honest about using his phone – PC Goodman later says that not all drivers who are caught are so compliant.

The man gets a ticket and will soon receive six points on his licence and a £200 fine.

"It's just not worth it," the officers say.

Despite the success of the morning's patrol, PC Goodman said the goal of the operation wasn't necessarily to punish people.

"I think prevention can be much better than punishment, because ultimately we want to stop people getting hurt, and preventative policing can do that," he said.