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A highway patrol is either a police unit created primarily for the purpose of overseeing and enforcing traffic safety compliance on roads and highways, or a detail within an existing local or regional police agency that is primarily concerned with such duties.
Duties of highway patrols or traffic police may include the following:
In Australia, traffic policing is the responsibility of the state police forces. Each force has its own traffic sections, often a local section in each area and a statewide section.
In Brazil, traffic policing is the responsibility of state and federal police forces accordingly to the highway administration status. State administered highways (usually shorter, within state borders, two-way, single lane, lower traffic) are policed by a branch of the Military Police forces, called State Highway Military Police. At the same time Federal highways and roads (longer, crossing state borders, some double lane and high-traffic) are the responsibility of the Federal Highway Police.
In France, traffic policing on highways is the responsibility of dedicated units of the Gendarmerie Nationale (France), the Escadron départementaux de sécurité routière (EDSR) and the CRS autoroutières of the National Police (France).
In Finland, Liikkuva Poliisi Has the primary responsibility of traffic policing, although regional police units occasionally organize sting operations to catch people driving under the influence and to monitor seatbelt and mobile phone usage.
In India, traffic policing on highways are carried out by state police forces.
In Japan, the Traffic Bureau of the National Police Agency (Japan) licenses drivers, enforces traffic safety laws, and regulates traffic. Intensive traffic safety and driver education campaigns are run at both national and prefectural levels. The bureau's Expressway Division addresses special conditions of the nation's growing system of express highways.
In the Netherlands, policing on the highways falls under the purview of the Dienst Verkeerspolitie (transportation police), which is one the Korps landelijke politiediensten (national police services, as opposed to the regional forces).
In Spain, traffic policing on highways is the responsibility of the Civil Guard (Spain), except in the autonomous communities with transferred competences on traffic policing (Catalonia and the Basque Country), where regional police forces (Mossos d'Esquadra and Ertzaintza, respectively) are responsibly for this area. In Navarra, traffic policing is shared between the Guardia Civil and the regional police (Policía Foral de Navarra).
Many state police agencies in the United States take the name of "highway patrol" rather than "state police". State police agencies may fulfill the role of highway patrol. For instance, the California Highway Patrol is actually a state police agency, meaning that it is a police body having statewide authority to conduct law enforcement activities and criminal investigations. In addition to its highway patrol duties described above, it performs functions outside the normal purview of the city police or the county sheriff, such as enforcing traffic laws on state highways and interstate expressways, overseeing the security of the state capitol complex, protecting the governor, training new officers for local police forces too small to operate an academy, providing technological and scientific support services, and helping to coordinate multi-jurisdictional task force activity in serious or complicated cases. The California Highway Patrol also serves as bailiffs and courtroom deputies for certain state courts, such as the appellate courts and the California Supreme Court building in San Francisco. The state traffic enforcement agency retained the name "California Highway Patrol" after the merger of the smaller California State Police with the larger—and better-known—CHP and the combination of their functions into one agency.
However, some Highway Patrol organizations, such as the North Carolina State Highway Patrol are specifically charged with the enforcement of traffic laws, and while able to enforce other laws, they are not official "state police" agencies in the same vein as the California Highway Patrol or the New Jersey State Police. In other cases, states like Texas have a bona fide and appropriately-named state police department such as the Texas Department of Public Safety, of which only one arm is a highway patrol unit. In addition, the police departments of Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia have highway patrol units. A privately compiled list of Highway Patrol organizations and similar state police agencies is available on the web. The Iowa State Patrol maintains a list of phone numbers and * and # cell phone numbers for non-emergency calls to the dispatchers of the Highway Patrol organizations in all 50 states. These numbers are useful for motorists who want to report aggressive driving, driving under the influence, or other dangerous but not life-threatening situations that do not require a 9-1-1 call.
Highway patrol and state police officers are often referred to as "state troopers". A state trooper goes by the title "trooper", as in "Trooper John Smith". The term "trooper" comes from "troop", which is typically used for the geographic divisions of a highway patrol or state police organization.