THE figures speak for themselves – speeding motorists are a major problem in Hampshire.
In just one year, 84,000 people were caught going over the speed limit in the county.
If they all were fined the minimum £100 penalty this makes more than £8m in fines which go to the Government.
The statistics revealed to the Daily Echo show the challenge police face on our roads where they say some motorists are risking the lives of not just themselves but others by flouting the speed laws.
Though police say they are tackling the problem with enforcement and education, critics argue that more officers are needed on the ground to catch motorists in the act and fear a reliance on speed cameras.
Earlier this week, the Daily Echo revealed how in the last year a motorist was clocked by a speed camera driving at 122mph on a 70mph road in Hampshire.
This was one of a number of high speeds revealed when Hampshire police released the five fastest speeds recorded by speed cameras between April 2013 and May this year.
The figures were part of a Freedom of Information request by the Institute of Advanced Motorists who said the dangers of speeding were still not getting through to drivers.
Every day in the UK five people will died and more than 65 will be seriously injured in crashes where speed may be a factor.
In 2013, 84,000 speeding offences were detected in Hampshire.
This is a drop from 90,000 caught in the previous 12 months – a reduction police put down to a mixture of enforcement and education.
In ten out of the 42 fatal collisions last year speed was recorded as a contributory factor.
Sgt Rob Heard, road safety sergeant for Hampshire police, said: “The higher the speed the more serious the injuries and the more likely a fatality.
“A moment of stupidity can end up with devastating consequences.”
He said drivers doing excessive speeds risk disqualification and even a dangerous driving charge.
Efforts to tackle speeding involve enforcement through static and mobile cameras and marked and unmarked police cars.
But police are tackling the issue in other ways, particularly through education.
Speed awareness courses instead of a prosecution have proved successful in stopping the problem early, said Sgt Heard.
Through the Safe Drive Stay Alive programme involving schools and colleges the dangers of speeding or drink-driving are spelled out to youngsters.
Police are also focusing on motorcyclists, running voluntary Bike Safe courses with a lecture and assessment on the roads from an instructor.
Another scheme police say has been effective is Community Speedwatch where residents go out in their community capturing drivers’ speeds.
Although this cannot be used for a prosecution, drivers will receive a letter of warning from police.
“We’re always looking at trying to increase what we can do, but we’re doing a very good job,” said Sgt Heard.
However, John Apter, chairman of the Hampshire Police Federation, representing rank and file officers in the county, raised concerns about the effect of budget constraints on speed prevention.
Mr Apter, below, said there was a place for speed cameras, but, with the pressures on police budgets and what he claimed was a reduction in dedicated traffic police officers in the past two or three years, there was a growing reliance on them.
Rather than catching people at 120mph, he argued prevention was better.
“The way we prevent such dangerous driving is to make people fear being caught...that fear isn’t there any more because people know they can travel for that distance without seeing a traffic car,”
he added Mr Apter said the disadvantage of static cameras is people can speed up and slow down around them, which is why he favoured average speed cameras.
Another benefit of a traffic officer is that stopping people on the roads could potentially detect other offences such as driving without insurance or drink-driving, he added.
He said police focus on neighbourhood policing ought to also apply to the “neighbourhood” of the roads.
Mr Apter said: “The communities on our roads deserve to have the same sort of policing.
“I feel they are being neglected because police priorities lie elsewhere.”
Mr Apter said there was a place for speed cameras in a “multi-pronged” approach, but there also needed to be investment in dedicated roads police and traffic officers to enforce the law on the streets and not replaced by cameras.
In response, Hampshire Constabulary said it was committed to road safety and its roads policing unit has collaborated with Thames Valley to form a joint roads policing unit.
The force said this unit is successful and one of the largest units of its kind in the country.
Mr Apter, who worked in roads policing and as a family liaison officer for victims’ families, said education was key and evidence showed a ‘telling off’ from an officer would have a more longlasting impact than a ticket.
He said the number of youngsters seriously injured in crashes has dropped so education was working and he praised the force’s efforts, but said it could be developed further.
Despite these successes, he fears that in the future such offences could become more prolific and, worse, more acceptable.
“The fewer police officers we have on the roads the less the fear is of getting caught, so the more people will carry on with their poor driving. In effect it could lead to bad behaviour going unchallenged, therefore it could escalate.”
However, he added it was also a matter of changing the attitude of the public so that speeding was treated with contempt.
Speeding: The numbers
- Of 84,000 speeding offences last year, 49,560 happened in 30mph limits, 13,440 in 70mph limits, 8,400 in 40mph limits, 8,400 per cent in 50mph limits and the remaining 4,200 in 20mph and 60mph limits.
- In 2013, ten of the 42 fatal casualties and 118 of the 1,031 serious injuries in Hampshire were in collisions where ‘exceeding the speed limit’ or ‘travelling too fast for conditions’ were recorded as contributory factors.
- A speed enforcement campaign in April saw 2,123 vehicles caught over the speed limit.