New weapon in war against speedsters


27 August 2007 09:37

Speed-plagued villages across Norfolk will be given a weapon in the battle against dangerous motorists as hi-tech equipment is launched this week.

Two vans kitted out with electronic signs warning drivers to slow down will be launched on Wednesday. The new units are similar to fixed signs already installed in some villages but are designed to be moved from week-to-week, meaning any town or parish concerned about motorists breaking the limit with have the opportunity to take positive action.

It is the latest initiative aimed at putting the power into the hands of communities after do-it-yourself speed traps manned by volunteers and endorsed by Norfolk police, were introduced earlier this year.

Meanwhile latest figures show there has been a 25pc fall in the number of people caught speeding on county roads. In 2006/7 30,235 offences were detected compared to 40,986 in 2005/6.

Bryan Edwards, spokesman for the Norfolk Safety Camera Partnership, said: “We are pleased with this decrease but it is not just about catching people speeding - we would be quite happy if the number of detections was zero.

“The number of people speeding is coming down but there is still a persistent hardcore that we still need to address and this latest scheme is part of that.

“The idea is that any parish council or community group can contact us with any concerns they have about speeding and we will be able to deploy the vehicles to their area for several days to act as a deterrent. This will be accompanied by high profile campaigns to highlight the consequences of speeding.”

The SAM - or Speed Awareness Messages - units are being introduced by the camera partnership along with Norfolk police and Norfolk County Council.

The initiative marks an increased emphasis on alternatives to roadside speed cameras. Camera partnerships are no longer funded by revenue from speeding tickets and instead counties are allocated a road safety budget. Norfolk has been granted £500,000 to be spent specifically on such alternatives.

The SAM units involve measurement devices being placed at various locations in a village while an operator is based in a marked vehicle. The intention is to educate rather than punish drivers with anyone travelling within the limit reward with a positive symbol and those travelling above the limit shown a negative symbol.

It is not the first time this equipment has been used in the county but the new funding means it can be used more frequently in a wider range of communities.

“At present we have 18 fixed boxes but only four or five cameras which we move between sites to target areas with the biggest problems,” Mr Edwards said.

“We constantly hear from communities who are concerned about speed but which don't warrant the installation of a fixed camera or as a mobile camera location. We have now added an extra weapon to our arsenal which can be used to tackle these very concerns.”

Handheld DIY speed cameras were introduced in a trial scheme in Hopton near Yarmouth in March with a view to rolling out the plan to more than a dozen communities.

Under the plan villagers will be out with hand held radar guns to clock the speed of motorists heading through the coastal village with a brief to record the car's registration number and the sex of the driver. Over the limit motorists will then be sent an official warning letter by police.

Twenty of the DIY radar kits have been bought by Norfolk father and son businessmen Ian and Matt Doughty to be loaned out to villages in the eastern division of Norfolk. Communities in other parts of the county have already expressed an interest.