Enforcement should be focused on drivers who are ‘truly reckless with speed’, rather than those with a ‘generally good moral compass’, who travel at a few miles per hour over the limit.
That’s the view of Tim Gibbs, founder and CEO of AutoSpeedWatch, a network of community-owned speed cameras that enable communities to ‘help solve the speeding problem they suffer through behavioural change’.
In a thought-provoking and somewhat controversial presentation, titled ‘Why are we wasting our time with speed enforcement?’ and delivered as part of the Festival of Road Safety, Tim Gibbs says ‘most people speed – it is a social norm’.
He says the median speed in a 30mph limit is 36mph, and describes the car as ‘a dangerous weapon wielded in some sort of socially acceptable manner’, adding that ‘speeding is strangely acceptable, it doesn’t make sense’.
He goes on to state that while ‘residential communities care about speeding the police don’t’ – because it is ‘not important compared to all their other tasks’.
The normality of speeding, he suggests, has affected the police’s attitude.
He describes Community Speedwatch as ‘in reality, more of a police community relations exercise’. “When the yellow jackets are not there, things return to normal,” he says.
Tim Gibbs says currently we either fine (with a camera) or report (via Community Speedwatch) vehicles travelling over a fixed limit. This generates ‘masses of reports’ of vehicles travelling over the limit but close to the median – not ‘those posing the greatest risk’.
“No wonder the police find it hard to motivate themselves about 36mph in a 30 zone,” he says.
He contends that prosecuting drivers for being ‘just over the limit annoys the bulk of low-end speeders’, and is seen as generating ‘unjust police revenue’. It also damages police/public relations, and doesn’t focus on high risk drivers.
He then asks: “Could we be cleverer about targeting the speeders who kill?”
He concludes with an AutoSpeedWatch case study in which 95,000 offences were detected, 7,500 of which were committed by just 238 vehicles caught 10 or more times.
Rather than sending 95,000 letters, the most persistent 7,500 offences could be targeted with 238 police responses.
“Isn’t that better use of police time?” he asks rhetorically.