Devon’s crime tsar wants to speed up the way in which members of the public can help slow down speeding drivers in their communities.
The Speedwatch scheme enables residents who are worried about vehicles flouting speed limits in their communities to set up monitoring sites where speeding vehicles can be identified. Drivers are then educated and engaged in the potential consequences of their actions.
But some volunteers have spent more than 12 months waiting to receive the training needed to operate the Speedwatch equipment.
Alison Hernandez, Devon and Cornwall’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said she was keen to help Devon & Cornwall Police resolve the delays so more schemes could be brought online.
She said: “My Police and Crime Plan is all about providing connected communities and Community Speedwatch is a great example of this principle in action.
“I want people to feel empowered to do something about crime where they live and work, and I know there are real concerns about people driving too quickly – particularly in rural areas. Over the summer my team conducted a road safety survey which showed that speeding was a serious concern.”
Cllr Alistair Dewhirst said that in July 2017, he made the offer in Kingskerswell to start up a community Speedwatch group.
But he added: “We had 19 people who put their name forward to volunteer, but they didn’t get onto the road until June 2018. There was a huge amount of interest from volunteers when we started and people said that they wanted to do it.
“But we lost about half of the volunteers during that time as they had given up waiting, and we haven’t been able to train a single person since June as no police officers have been available.”
He added that volunteers also wanted to start work in a 20mph zone in Kingskerswell, but the police have not yet offered them a suitable location to do so, and therefore, they cannot start work.
He added: “We were out for an hour last week and we recorded 33 cars speeding on Torquay Road, in Kingskerswell, with some of them doing well in excess of 50 mph in a 30 limit, which was frightening.
“Some of our communities do feel like they are under attack from cars. Sometimes it is just a feeling and sometimes it is justified, but if people don’t feel safe on the highway or walking next to the highway, then they won’t walk and will get in the car and that only exacerbates the issue.
“We have got to get our communities and roads safe. It can be done by enforcement or engineering of the highway, but the first stage though is to establish a process for volunteers who want to get involved in protecting their communities from speeding drivers.
Volunteers have to receive appropriate training before they can go out on the roads, but Cllr Dewhirst said that excessive red tape is holding up the process.
He added: “To my mind it should be is a relatively simple process to train the volunteers and it is not rocket science. The principle of getting trained volunteers to then train new volunteers, with adequate checks in place to ensure they are operating correctly, is the logical way to operate to my mind.
“We have brought the concerns to the PCC, at the Police and Crime Panel she said that that she would have a training volunteer programme within six weeks, but we have already had two weeks.
“But I do think she is keen to get volunteers to help the police, particularly as budgets are under pressure and there are these volunteers who are keen to help.”
A spokesman for Ms Hernandez said that to set up a Speedwatch scheme risk assessments have to be carried out on potential sites and training needs to be provided to volunteers.
They added: “Due to high levels of demand and resourcing pressures there are some challenges for the scheme at the moment in terms of supporting new schemes who want to get up and running and in administering existing schemes. Work is under way right now to fix this – to ensure that the right level of resource is put in to ensure that community Speedwatch can continue to flourish and grow.”
The issue of speeding and delays in getting volunteers accredited also was raised by Isobel Parris, from Dousland on Dartmoor, at a recent Devon County Council meeting.
Mrs Parris said that she was speaking in distress, shame and pure frustration about the number of animal deaths on the roads.
She said: “There were 133 recorded deaths on all unfenced and open moorland and Devon roads last year. So far this year, we have had 143 animals RTAs, and is just sheep, cattle and ponies. It is disgraceful and we should be ashamed by these numbers.
“Dartmoor National Park say that do not like signage on the Moor, but instead, do they want carcasses scattered over the road?
“Speedwatch is the answer, as is signage and education, but I am a Speedwatch volunteer and we cannot get any police to train the number of people who wish to do it. Some people have been waiting for 12 months as there are no police to train them at all.
“I would like speed monitoring equipment on the Moor. We don’t want visible policemen and I don’t understand why we can’t have 40mph on all unfenced roads on the Moor.”
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner said they will be continuing to work with partners to raise awareness of road safety on Dartmoor and support greater action on tackling excessive speed.
Speaking about the calls from local residents to reduce speed limits on Dartmoor, Alison said: “What the correct speed level should be for a particular road is a matter for road safety professionals.
“However, as the national lead for PCCs on road safety I am supporting calls nationally for a widespread review of rural road speeds. We need to ensure that speed limits are appropriate for the environment and look at what extra action we need to take to keep people safe.
“A review of rural road speeds was recommended in the recent independent study commissioned by the Department of Transport and I will be asking the Road Safety Minister to consider this as part of his work on a new action plan for vulnerable road users, which includes rural road users.”
Dartmoor National Park did not respond to request for comment about speeding on Dartmoor.
Devon and Cornwall Police did not respond to request for comment about why some Speedwatch volunteers have been waiting 12 months for training.