Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Speed Cameras - Darlington's own 'Elephant in the Corner'

Last night was the first full PACT meeting for Whinfield, held at the primary school. PACT stands for Partners and Communities Together, and is a Durham Constabulary initiative to bring together representatives from the emergency services, the local authority and members of the local community to decide local priorities.

The 5 ward councillors representing the area (Tom and Veronica for Haughton North, myself, David and Andy for Haughton West) publicised the meeting via our various letters and newsletters. The Police too had posters up around the area. And in truth, for a first meeting, turnout wasn't too bad.

It is up to the PACT to prioritise key issues which will be taken forward and a report-back held at the next meeting. A big talking point which was raised early on by local people was speeding on Barmpton Lane and Salters Lane South.

These are important, relatively long link roads for estates in the area, but there the similarity ends. Barmpton Lane has no traffic calming and has been plagued by complaints of speeding for years. Salters Lane South on the other hand, has extensive traffic claming in the form of chicanes and traffic 'cushions'. And yet still, some mindless idiots apparently insist on speeding there.

The latter road is a very good example of the simple truth that if a driver is not bothered about the risk s/he poses to the community or indeed themselves, and aren't interested in damage to their vehicles, they can race to high speeds in built-up areas on almost any road. For the vast majority of drivers, the excellent traffic claming scheme on Salters Lane South is a mental prompt which reminds them that speeding here (a road which serves four estates and the Education Village) is not only illegal but effectively constitutes anti-social behaviour. A few are prepared to ignore the obvious, however.

So here the Council have done their bit, but what of the Police? When drivers ignore traffic calming, what is there left? Residents of course fall back on enforcement - drivers' fear of a heavy fine and at least 3 points on the license. The PACT meeting last night heard from residents asking where is the speed enforcement on Barmpton Lane? And the answer (with all respect to Jonathan and Rebecca, who do a fine job patrolling our streets in Haughton and Whinfield and fronted the meeting) was that it seems there has been little if any response.

Almost alone amongst the 43 constabularies in England and Wales, Durham has set its face against speed cameras. Feted by the likes of Jeremy Clarkson, petrolheads and the Daily Telegraph, Durham has no fixed speed cameras. Otherwise the force relies upon a single mobile speed camera unit for the whole of the County - the Constabulary's own website tells us that currently, it may be seen in North Road or McMullen Road in Darlington - 2 in 13 sites around Co. Durham. Is that a real deterrant? I'll let you decide.

Contrast this approach with our neighbouring police areas in Cleveland and Northumbria, who have a distinctly less tolerant attitude towards speeding traffic, with speed cameras on high risk roads. I appreciate that many drivers think this approach is overkill. You might feel differently if it was your child who had been mown down by a speeding car. Is Durham enlightened in its softly-softly approach? Or is it wilfully turning a blind eye to the menace of speeding in our communities?

I post this simply because I don't feel there has been a proper debate in Darlington about traffic and speed. It may be the the greater majority of the Borough's residents agree with Durham Constabulary and don't want to see speed cameras targetted on those roads which have the worst speed-related accident record. I simply don't know.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not beating a drum here for the proliferation of static speed cameras as a some panacea for the speeding problem. But can a Police force with a single white van with a camera in the back serving nearly 600,000 people really claim to be serious about speed? Listening to the frustrations of residents last night makes me think that the Police need to be open to a genuine discussion with our communities about this issue. If the PACT process can do that, then it truly will have earned the respect of the people it serves.


miketually said...

In my experience, even the people who argue strongest that "speed doesn't cause accidents" are strongly opposed to speeding in urban areas.

Are the rules still the same for fixed cameras - that they can only be sited where x people have been killed?

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes.....

Mike. I think fixed speed cameras are situated where excessive speeding as well as where fatalities have occurred in the urban areas as well as the country areas.

I have been conditioned to the sight of speed cameras throughout my working life in Cleveland. They do deter speeding motorists. Excessive speed does cause accidents. There is no doubt whatsoever.

An example is the fixed camera at Long Newton on the A66 where the sight of the speed camera as well as the road surface makes motorists slow down and hit the brakes. You can see the red brake lights coming on just after the warning sign and the speed camera comes into sight.

On one occasion I found myself going over the speed limit leaving Hartlepool just by a speed camera, seeing a flash of light and thinking to myself that I had been caught, but nothing happened.

Fixed speed cameras do deter speeding motorists and do cut down on accidents. I cannot understand why Durham Police have not installed them.

ian h said...


From a persoanl perspective, I against the general introduction of speed cameras, largely due to the manner in which their use has been abused by many councils/"safety partnerships".

However, i think few would argue against their installation at specific points of concern, such as outside schools.i am sure these would get the majority support of road users.

As regards the often trotted out "speed kills" message, I believe that this over-simplistic approach has done much to alienate many drivers from the road safety message. In fact, the governments own statistsics show that exceess speed was a major factor in only 5% of accidents. Surely then, we should be looking at the causes of the other 95%? rather than concentrating on the speed element?

You dont need to look very far ...bad driving, pure and simple. Cameras will do nothing to counter the real "nutters", the ininsured, the stolen or unregistered cars, plus the plain incompetent drivers that plague our roads.

Contrary to what has been written about durham constabulary, they have been very succesful in tackling deaths of motorcyclists, some of our most vulnerable road users (myself being one i hasten to add)
The have achieved success in reducing deaths through high profile education and engagement rather than enforcement.
Whilst this will not work in all areas of enforcement, greater emphasis on high profile poilicing and training could make a profound difference.
This applies to ALL road users, drivers, riders (incl horse riders)cyclists AND pedestrians.

I do hope that a reasoned and sensible debate can be had re speeding that avoids the simplistic and plain inaccurate speed kills message and focusses on the real causes of death on our roads.

Anonymous said...

Oh Dear Nick, Please don't start a debate that will inflict cameras on 'Free' Durham..... the issue is saftey and education. Radar controlled illuminated signs are much more effective. The accident rate is no greater in Durham than elesewhere by the Exchequeurs es' rate is lower!


Anonymous said...

I am totally opposed to all speed cameras. They are not accurate and they don't really do anything expecte raise revenue and force drivers to constantly watch their speedometer rather than concentrate on the road ahead and what is going on around them. I found some interesting information on http://bit.ly/Y59uH that may be of use to readers if they get pinged. Actually you should read it BEFORE you get a ticket.

miketually said...

"they don't really do anything expecte raise revenue and force drivers to constantly watch their speedometer rather than concentrate on the road ahead and what is going on around them"

If you can't drive below a certain speed, you shouldn't be driving.

To be caught by a speed camera on a 60 limit, your speedo would be showing way over 60 - almost 70. There's no way you should be able to drift that far over the speed limit.

To be caught, you also have to fail to notice all the warning signs and the large, yellow boxes. Anyone caught speeding by a speed camera should also be done for driving without due care and attention!

Having said that, they're not a panacea to all problems, and should not be used to replace traffic police. Driving under the speed limit without leaving a safe gap to the car in front is far more dangerous than speeding on an empty motorway.

ian h said...

I agree to an extent, certainly with your last paragraph and the need to retain traffic police

The problem with cameras is their indiscriminate nature. At least the police should have the opportunity to apply some common sense in any given case.

My sole drving conviction in some 25 years on motorcylces and in cars was for 35 mph in a 30 limit. It was in cleveland on the exit of a quiet village. I honestly do not think that the 3 points and fine was a fit penalty for such a slight error of judgement.

Ssdly we now have some council/police forces soley dependant on cameras, having given up their traffic sections. In North wales they are hiding cameras inside horse-boxes for gawds sake! Hardly an obvious deterant.... As stated earlier, it is this sort of behaviour where various authorities abuse the system that brings the whole use of cameras into disrepute.

Ian W said...

I don't have one but thought all these new sat navs had warnings on for the fixed location of speed cameras and when the van one is out there must be signs to tell drivers of it's presence?

I agree with Ian H that sometimes the hard word using his discretion from a Policeman is all it takes, and whilst we all know in relation to vehicle / pedestrian accidents speed is a live or die factor, I disagree with Police forces and councils just using it as a cash cow and not really for what it was intended.

I think the boy in us all still likes a bit of speed now and then but the secret to it is using common sense and where and when appropriate, not outside schools etc.

My first car struggled to brake the speed limit, now what the young lads get as "first cars" break it in 2nd gear.

Whilst the answer is simple don't speed many law abiding citizens do so by mistake as Ian H did and are not the real danger we need to stop.

Last Sunday I saw avan come through the village and it must have been doing 80-90 and I think I am a good judge of speed, it was going that fast I could not even get a letter of its reg.

Anonymous said...

Morning Councillor. You haven't commented on the Pedestrian Heart fiasco yet. Let's hear your views or has Jonno ordered you to keep stum.

Paul Cain said...


Back in Blighty for a few days and saw the report in the Echo about the Pedestrian Heart scheme.

I always knew the public sector had a fairly relaxed approach to spending public money, but the PH cock-up takes the breath away.

That's what happens, of course, when you have a bunch of council officers who have only ever worked in the cossetted confines of a town hall; and when you have councillors who have never had a job which involved making a profit.

How can you remain quiet about such amateurish incompetence?

I know New Labour's moral compass has been wonky for years now, but surely heads must roll?

If not, can I ask you to answer just this:

Just what circumstances would it take for a member of the New Labour cabal running Darlington Council to consider resigning?

Anonymous said...

Paul Councillor Wallis has gone ever so quiet again. Come on Councillor answer the questions.

Darlington Councillor said...

I'll be posting something on Pedestrian Heart presently.

ex-labour said...

I'll be posting something on Pedestrian Heart presently.

Yes ...Well,presently?

That was 5 days ago where is the post, or ar you running it by Johno first.

What if (when) Labour lose will you keep on bloging?

ex-labour said...

6 days ago!

Paul Cain said...

Morning Councillor

I expected you to have written something on the Pedestrian Heart fiasco by now. It's been a week.

Is this a typical New Labour media-management trick (move along, now, nothing to see here. Time to move on....) which your party rolls out every single time it's caught with its pants round its ankles or its fingers in the till?

Or are you just busy?

Or has John Williams leaned on you?

Isn't the basic fact this: Your lot have been in charge (is it 15 years now?) of a council which, just last week, admitted that in that entire time it did not possess the basic structures to check contracts.

Throughout that time John Williams and Bill Dixon have been in charge.

How, in the name of sanity, can they just shrug this off?

How dare you lot simply rely on arrogant silence?

If the imbeciles you employ at the town hall didn't know what was happening to contracts, how much more public money has been peed down a big black hole?

Are the Pedestrian Heart and the Bypass scheme just the tip of the iceberg? Isn't that entirely likely given the amateurs in charge?

Have you spoken to Councillors Williams and Dixon? Aren't they even a teensy-weensy bit embarrassed that the organisation they lead has been exposed as an incompetent shambles?

The word 'fiasco' does not do it justice.

If someone put this in a play, they'd be accused of exaggeration.

Your party are a laughing stock and unless you have the balls to do what you said, and respond to this, then you'll look ridiculous, too.

(And, again: answer the questions, please. Do not just launch into New Labour speak. If we want that we'll program a robot or buy a trained monkey.)