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Keeping people safe on Wiltshire’s roads is a complex issue and one which Wiltshire Police cannot tackle with fixed speed cameras or officer numbers alone, according to the county’s PCC and one of the force’s top officers.
BBC Panorama Britain’s Killer Roads, which aired last night, used information obtained from Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all police forces and suggested a lack roads policing officers and fewer fixed speed cameras were contributing to an epidemic of road incidents across the country, including deaths.
PCC Philip Wilkinson said both he and Wiltshire Police took the issue of safer roads extremely seriously and this was reflected by residents, surveyed by the PCC on Wiltshire Police’s priorities, who identified safer roads and speeding as one of their highest priorities.
“Our communities want speeding drivers targeted and road safety to be a focus for Wiltshire Police both now, and in the future, and this will be reflected in our new police and crime plan,” he said. “Through all of my consultations, both on the doorstep and various boards and council meetings, residents have made it clear how strongly they feel about this.
“I have listened and this is a key focus for our new police and crime plan. Safer roads and fewer accidents can’t be attributed to a simple fix of simply having more officers or fixed speed cameras - drivers know these locations and adapt their driving to suit and police officers can’t be everywhere at all times.
“What we need is intelligence-led targeting of key speeding hotspots, increased visibility of roads policing officers to provide a deterrent to potential speeding drivers and increased resourcing in those areas which help that visibility. This is exactly what our new police and crime plan will deliver, and Wiltshire Police have already started working on.
“Preventing an accident from happening is key and we will not wait for another family to grieve a loved one lost to a collision involving speed to take action.”
Wiltshire's fixed speed cameras were turned off in 2009 - a decision made by the Wiltshire and Swindon Road Safety Partnership. Last year, more than 1,300 speeding fixed penalty notices were issued to drivers – compared to 989 in 2016 and we put almost 600 speeding cases before the court in 2021 compared to 174 in 2016.
In Wiltshire, a jointly-funded dedicated Community Enforcement Officer uses a state-of-the-art, mobile speed camera and works alongside Community Speed Watch (CSW) volunteers to collate intelligence, developing a targeted enforcement approach across those communities where there are speeding issues and provide enforcement.
These 115 CSW teams, made up of close to 1,000 volunteers, collate intelligence from auto speed watch cameras and speed indicators and help with the identification of speeding hotspots and persistent speeding offenders.
“In Wiltshire we are blessed with CSW teams, who share our passion to make our roads safer,” Mr Wilkinson added. “We have already starter to better coordinate those CSW teams and better use the data that they produce.”
The PCC has also committed investment for two additional Community Enforcement Officers, alongside two further mobile cameras, to bolster these efforts and ensure countywide, intelligence-targeted, speeding enforcement strategies. Recruitment for those posts is in progress.
Mr Wilkinson added: “We need to ensure safer roads for all - where communities can carry on with their lives with the peace of mind of fewer speeding drivers - and Wiltshire Police can ensure strategic enforcement is used to target those hotspots where the intelligence has told us there is an issue.
“Put simply, if you’re an irresponsible driver and continually break speed limits, you will be caught and action taken.”
Further investment in Wiltshire Police’s Roads Policing Unit is also part of budget and precept proposals for 2022/ 23, including more resources and a proposed increase in the number of traffic cars.
Mr Wilkinson has pledged an increase to the number of roads policing officers and collision investigators in a bid to continue to improve road safety, drive up enforcement and lower drivers’ speeds as a result, as well as ensure serious collisions are able to be investigated even more promptly and to further maintain its high standards.
Assistant Chief Constable Deb Smith said: “Enforcement of the laws in place across our road network continue to be a focus for us as we are all too aware of the devastating consequences speeding can have.
“Although there is a clear correlation between enforcement of speed limits and a reduction in casualties, it is crucial that drivers also educate themselves on the restrictions in place to protect people and the impact their decision-making can have every time they get behind the wheel.
“I also want to reassure our communities that since fixed speed cameras were switched off in our county in 2009 - a decision made by the Wiltshire and Swindon Road Safety Partnership - we have actually seen a significantly higher level of enforcement on our roads.
“The Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon Philip Wilkinson has made a significant investment in road safety and this allows my operational teams, supported by our fantastic Community Speed Watch volunteers, to ensure we prioritise road safety in the county.
“Finally, I would like to appeal directly to those who speed and ask whether reaching your destination a few minutes earlier really worth the risk of being involved in a fatal or serious collision?”