Monday, July 12, 2010

Community Speed Watch

There's an increasing number of areas of the country with a Community Speed Watch programme - Leicestershire, Surrey, Wiltshire, Avon and Somerset, Northamptonshire, Fife, and others. The clue's in the name folks - residents equipped with radar guns and vehicle-activated signs monitor speeds through their local area. Offenders are not prosecuted but receive a letter from the police instead.

Cynics might say this is policing on the cheap, but I think it is an idea that could have legs.
First, it gives people a sense of ownership over their roads, and it encourages people to view speeding as the dangerous and antisocial behaviour that it is.
Second, it challenges the following attitudes:
  • speed limits are only guidelines;
  • everybody speeds, it's a fact of life and there's nothing that can be done about it;
  • crackdowns on speeding are about raising revenue not improving safety.

If children get involved, it cements early in life the idea that speed is dangerous. People would be less likely to speed if they know their neighbours are watching disapprovingly. Lastly, the main problem with relying on the police to hand out speeding tickets is there are nowhere near enough traffic police to be a deterrent. We increasingly rely on fixed speed cameras for enforcement because  manned detection is so expensive. In London at least, the traffic cop with a radar gun is rarer than hen's teeth these days. But there are an awful lot of local residents, making mounting regular speed checks feasible, which could have a significant deterrent effect.

So the only remaining question is, why does the Metropolitan Police not run one of these schemes?

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