Because of pressures on police and their resources, there is a lack of speed limit enforcement, even though it’s often the top concern of local communities and a major cause of preventable deaths.
Many drivers found speeding are themselves local to the area where they are caught.
Community Speed Watch (CSW) was piloted in 2002 in the village of Ash in Somerset to tackle a persistent speeding problem, which the police did not have the resources to provide sufficient levels of enforcement. The pilot proved successful not just because it filled the gap in enforcement but because through harnessing the community’s involvement, it helped change attitudes and behaviour within the community itself. A video is available from Avon & Somerset Police explaining how CSW schemes work.
Following its successes, CSW schemes now operate in police forces across the country increasingly in urban as well as rural areas. CSW does not operate on roads with a speed limit above 40 mph, however, due to safety risks from vehicles travelling much faster.
Although run as a partnership between local authorities, communities and the emergency services, CSW schemes are led by the police. They involve trained volunteers monitoring the speeds of vehicles at least weekly and passing the registration numbers of vehicles breaking the speed limit to the police. First and second time offenders will receive a warning letter, while repeat offenders may receive a police visit or face targeted enforcement action.
Public perceptions about the acceptability of different conduct changes over time. For example, a few decades ago many people didn’t think twice about drink-driving but only a small minority still do that now. Some drivers will obey speed limits meticulously, a few drivers will tend to flout them. Many drivers are in between these two extremes and will be influenced by the speeds of other drivers and the views of people in their local community.