Community Speedwatch Taps Driver Awareness

speedwatchSpeeding is a huge concern for many communities in both rural and urban areas. Community Speedwatch (CSW), a locally driven initiative has been introduced to Oundle to help address these concerns. Active members meet voluntarily as a group, assisting police to monitor the speed of vehicles and aiming to deter people from exceeding the speed limit. Oundle resident Alex Haider initiated the Oundle CSW Scheme and has been joined by Councillors Stephen Ellis and Charles Best, who were the first volunteers to get involved in the scheme.

All volunteers receive appropriate training, and are supported by neighbourhood policing team (NPT) staff. For the Oundle training session, approximately 50 people attended from Oundle and other towns and villages around Northamptonshire, a demonstration of people’s concerns about road safety.

All volunteers wear bright-yellow-coloured hi-vis jackets. For every group, depending on the number of members, radar guns are provided. At least three people can make up a small on-duty group that goes out for one and a half hours at a time. They detect the speed of passing vehicles with the radar gun and record details of which vehicles have exceeded the limited speed.

However, their powers are limited. ‘It is a police scheme and they look for volunteers in the community. We have no powers to enforce anything,’ explained Mr Haider.

Mr Ellis said: ‘We record the speed and then send the data to the police and then they will send a letter to people who are going above the speed limit.’ They do not have the right to issue tickets or fine those who go beyond the limited speed. They pass on the details of these infractions to police officers who will then check these drivers’ records. Vehicles that exceed the limit are referred to the police, whose objective in the first instance is to educate drivers about reducing their speeds.

The SpeedWatch scheme not only aims to reduce the speed of vehicles, but also through partnership with the community, to cater for the problem of real or perceived speed related offences, to reduce death and injury on the roads, to improve the quality of life for local communities and to increase public awareness of inappropriate speed. Mr Haider emphasised: ‘It’s just a gentle reminder to people in Oundle to look after their speed.’

Most importantly, Speedwatch activity is not about interfering with a neighbour’s behaviour; it is a proactive solution to improve the safety and quality of life for everyone in the community.

‘A lot of the people who travel through town have children, they have a business, they have friends and family. That’s why we want to remind them sometimes when they are rushing somewhere, that they need to appreciate that if their children, friends are out there crossing a road, how would they like cars to approach them, ‘ said Mr Haider.

‘An accident is a life-changing event, and I don’t want that to happen to anyone, especially a child,’ he said.

In their first outing, they put up a sign saying ‘Community SpeedWatch, 30 miles an hour, Slow Down Please’. There is one by the Oundle Surgery, and another one on Station Road on the way to the boat club over the bridge. Mr Ellis said: ‘People do seem to notice it and slow down, particularly after they have seen the SpeedWatch crew with the camera, checking them.’

Mr Hader was impressed by the effectiveness of the scheme, noticing a change in behaviour after the team had been out monitoring a route. ‘I walked up to that road a few days later, the traffic surprised me. It was a bit of a shock that everyone was driving at a sensible speed.’

Most drivers show their respect to the work that these volunteers are doing. ‘In the first outing, we had a couple of people who went by and gave thumbs-up. There was one person who didn’t look to be very happy, but not so many. Most people just slow down and
carry on.’

As a result of the SpeedWatch, eight police warning letters were sent out. ‘A lot of the transgressors were local. We need to change attitudes. Slow down.’

It is suggested that although most drivers do slow down when they see volunteers with radar guns, there is a likelihood that drivers forget about speed limits when there isn’t anyone warning them with a detector. It is especially true when drivers are in a rush. People do need to remember to be aware of their speed even under emergency situations. The CSW scheme helps remind people of the speed they should be driving at.

More volunteers are needed to run the Oundle CSW scheme smoothly. Mr Haider and Mr Ellis said repeatedly that the scheme is not about catching and fining people, it is just a gentle reminder.

The fact is that there are three schools in Oundle and there is also an increase in the traffic coming through Oundle as well. This means that it is absolutely essential to remind people to keep an appropriate speed in the town to better look after pedestrians and the community.

If you are interested in joining the Oundle scheme, please contact oundle-speedwatch@googlegroups.com.

By Emily Wang
May 2017