Volunteers with speed guns strike back

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Media caption Sara, a volunteer, clocks a driver with his laser gun

An increasing movement in the UK is shifting the strength of catching speeding motorists through the police, to the people.

“My daughter was going to college and one of her friends has been killed by a vehicle, ” states John Ryan.

“The school assembly that early morning when the children were told had been terrible. The school didn’t recover for approximately a year. It had a very huge impact on the children and particularly our daughter. ”

At this point, 20 years later, the retired coach driver has joined a system of volunteers trying to make the highways safer.

Two times a week, he patrols the area in which he lives in west London with a quickness gun and two police local community officers, noting down car enrollment details of drivers breaking the limit.

Picture caption In London’s plan, police community support officers report registration details

In one spot next to the school, he typically catches twenty vehicles breaking the 20mph limit within a one-hour session. He once captured a car travelling at 45mph.

“It just shows exactly what we’re up against as a community, inch he says.

Deadly problem

Every year, regarding 1 . 25 million people perish in road accidents around the world, and average, five people are killed upon Britain’s roads each day. Speed is really a contributing factor in around half of deadly road collisions. And the faster an automobile travels, the worse injuries is going to be.

Current deterrents designed for motorists are flawed. Speed digital cameras create resentment and only work in particular locations. Police with speed weapons are effective, but this approach can be a strain on their time.

Therefore passing the baton of the acceleration gun to John and many other volunteers could be a solution.

Thousands of people like John are usually volunteering around the country, in a patchwork of groups.

Hear a lot more

Picture caption World Hacks media reporter Dougal Shaw with Inspector Philip Spaul who co-ordinates volunteers
  • You can learn more about volunteer velocity monitoring groups in the latest People Repairing the World podcast from your BBC World Service, including the confession from reporter Dougal Shaw

The group John volunteers with is certainly Community Roadwatch, which Transport designed for London (TfL) runs with The City Police.

“It’s having the community involved in reclaiming their roads, ” explains Siwan Hayward, mind of Transport Policing at TfL.

“We’re confident they have having a massive impact, without placing drivers through fines or the legal courts. ”

Simply no fine, no points

There is a crucial difference when volunteers, like John, rather than the police, wield speed guns.

Road users who are caught simply receive a caution letter from the police telling all of them that neighbourhood volunteers have documented them speeding.

The letter contains an academic message and an appeal to their own conscience – but no other charges, no points or fine.

Image caption Aylmer Road in northern London has been used as a check bed for Community Roadwatch

However , when they receive three of these letters, they might get a home visit from a officer and their vehicle details might be put on a police database.

Of the 35, 000 words it has sent out to motorists working in london in the past two years, TfL says just 2% of recipients have re-offended.

A study it performed in Aylmer Road, in Barnet, north London, suggested that volunteers working for a year were able to bring down the standard speed by 11mph, to 31mph – below the 40mph restrict.

‘Evil eye’

But can the stiff letter telling you off genuinely have impact?

Daniel, a Londoner, says it can. “I’ve got a young family and if I find someone driving recklessly I’m the first to give them an evil eyesight.

Picture caption Extract from a common letter a motorist could get when caught speeding by volunteers

“For the community to be looking at me this way, yeah it had a big effect. ”

The fact that there is no fine or penalty, he admits that, removed any anger or disappointment. This allowed him to focus on the very fact he was in the wrong.

He was moved to write returning to the police thanking them for the notice.

Starting Weapon

One of the first forces to begin working with volunteers was Cheshire Law enforcement in the mid-2000s. It was inspired with a community in Somerset, recalls John Rogers, head of Roads Policing in Cheshire at the time.

Image caption A laser speed weapon can cost around £ 3, 1000

Local people had spontaneously bought a speed weapon and began sending registration information to the police.

Cheshire Police decided to harness that people strength, but also to organise it and offer training and support.

It’s a good idea, says Brian, because law enforcement resources can’t meet the level of issues when it comes to speeding.

He’s not convinced volunteers possess a significant, lasting impact on reducing street accidents but he thinks the particular scheme can empower communities, in line with an important British principle, policing simply by consent.


Not all motorists permission to being judged by other citizens, though. Irate motorists invariably is an occupational hazard, especially for the a large number of volunteers who operate across the UNITED KINGDOM without any police support on hand.

And volunteers have an picture problem too, according to Jan Jung in Hastings, who runs a good umbrella group called Speedwatch .

“The perception is that this type of person vigilantes, they’re hobby policemen, or even they just have nothing better to perform, ” he explains.

Image caption Volunteers say they learn to take those abuse from motorists in their step

He or she advises volunteers to manage their feelings in a confrontation and keep things impersonal. If you recognise a neighbour, this individual warns, you should avoid eye contact.

Through his Speedwatch team, his ambition is to make volunteers a force to be reckoned along with. At the moment the work of volunteers across the nation is too uncoordinated to be as efficient as it could be, he says.

If you offend in Newcastle after that Doncaster, for example , the current localised program isn’t intelligent enough to elevate the stern letters.

Image copyright Speedwatch tablet
Image caption Speedwatch created a system to enter information on speeding cars at the roadside

For this reason, Speedwatch has developed a computerised, super-database it wants other groups to join.

Currently it only contains Sussex and Kent, connecting 315 volunteer groups.

However the organisation hopes to connect the several 1000 groups that are currently operational round the UK.

“If this particular becomes a national system it can significantly impact speeding, ” says January. “There’s no doubt about it, it will. inch

Follow Dougal Shaw on Twitter @dougalshawbbc

You can learn read more about volunteer speed monitoring groups within the latest People Fixing the World podcasting from the BBC World Service

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