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  1. ITV Report

Calls for national system to manage community speedwatch volunteers

  • Watch Emma Wilkinson's report:

A growing number of people are choosing to give up their time to monitor drivers' speed in a bid to make their local roads safer.

"We accept that the resources of the police and the council are reducing. We can moan about it, or as a community we can do something about it," says Andy Surridge.

He has set up a community speed watch group in Haslemere to try and stop motorists speeding on Critchmere Hill and Woolmer Hill.

The group of local volunteers recently held its first speedwatch session. With a speed gun and training provided by police, they noted down car registration details of drivers breaking the limit. They then passed those details on to the force.

Community speed watch volunteers in Haslemere, Surrey.

We live on this road and people have overtaken us on the bend, people have hooted, we've had one or two accidents where people have driven into the walls. There are some traffic calming measures, but they are too narrow to slow vehicles down and they haven't been maintained in years. So we just wanted to do something ourselves.

– Colin Williams, volunteer

We had been abroad for a few years and when we moved back to this area, we noticed that the traffic had increased a lot and become faster. There is a school up the road and so it can be very dangerous for children walking up and down here. So our aim by being here, is to make people aware of that.

– Ali Walker, volunteer

On average, five people are killed on Britain's roads each day and speed is a contributing factor in around half of fatal road collisions.

And there are those who believe that current deterrents, such as speed cameras, fines and points, are not the best ways to change driver behaviour.

Campaigners say education is key, and that is the aim of community speedwatch.

Motorists who are caught receive a warning letter from the police telling them that neighbourhood volunteers have recorded them speeding.

The letter contains an educational message and an appeal to their conscience - but no other penalty. Only if they receive three or more letters might they receive a visit from a police officer.

It is estimated there are now well over five thousand community speedwatch volunteers in the ITV Meridian region. In Hampshire, for example, there were twenty-eight volunteers in 2011 when the scheme first launched there - today there are over one thousand. While in the Thames Valley, around a hundred parishes now use speedwatch.

Jan Jung is the Chief Executive of Community Speedwatch Online

And advocates of the scheme say it does work. In areas where it has been active for some time, they say there has been a drop in average speeds and 90% of people who receive an initial warning letter do not reoffend.

Jan Jung runs an online platform in the south east which aims to brings volunteers together and make community involvement with road safety policing more efficient.

He says the biggest challenge to community speedwatch being as effective as it could be, is that the scheme is completely disjointed across the UK.

"Speedwatch is inconsistently interpreted and managed by many UK police forces. We need a truly national organisation to ensure that groups are working to the same rules, standards and outcomes," he says.

He says if groups operated under one banner, the data and intelligence they collect could be better utilised by police to target repeat offenders who have ignored warning letters.

He added: "On top of the grief for families who have lost loved ones because of speeding, it costs the state £2 million per fatality. If people could lower their average speed by 1mph - and we believe a national scheme can help do that - that reduces the number of casualties by 5%. That means community speedwatch could save up to ninety lives a year."

But sceptical or even angry motorists are an occupational hazard for volunteers, with many being branded vigilantes with nothing better to do with their time.

"Actually I rather enjoy doing something worthwhile as part of the community," says Haslemere volunteer Ed Walker.

He says if every driver who saw them out in high-visibility jackets that day, mentioned it to someone else, then their message would soon spread.