Community groups in the Wiltshire countryside who became concerned about the number of drivers speeding through their villages have been taking steps to tackle the problem throughout 2011 – and have recorded over 15,000 incidents in just 12 months.
Across the county, police and local authorities have been providing Community Speed Watch groups with the monitoring equipment required to record how fast a vehicle is travelling. Although the evidence is not enough to mount a prosecution, the details were handed over to Wiltshire Constabulary who wrote an official letter to the drivers involved, warning them about their speed.
Manned by volunteers, who made over 1,500 monitoring visits to well-known speed traps throughout rural areas, the scheme has, however, resulted in a number of cautions and fixed penalty notices, with three drivers being taken to court. Police will carry out their own speed checks if the same driver is caught three times, while if the locals can prove that a particular stretch of road is bad for speeding, then Wiltshire Constabulary will start to monitor the area themselves.
The scheme is set to expand in 2012, with a new group of volunteers from the village of Blunsdon, near Swindon, being trained in how to use the monitoring equipment. Elizabeth Ngero, Wiltshire’s Community Speed Watch coordinator, accepted that while the groups have little power to affect driving habits directly, it does make local people feel more empowered and more able to influence the policies and decision of the local council and police officers.
She added that many of the volunteers live in areas that are affected badly by speeding drivers and that because these are rural villages, the lack of pavements makes drivers who speed even more dangerous to pedestrians. Community Speed Watch was set up in response to the closure of the council’s speed camera unit in 2010, while the town of Swindon became the first in England to abandon the use of fixed cameras for detecting speed violations.