NEW SPEED CAMERA VAN LAUNCHED IN CLARE

If you are one of those people who tend to set out from home a bit late and are always in rush so you put your foot down to make up time, then you better mend your ways. And fast!

A new police speed camera van is being deployed on patrol around our local roads from the beginning of March. According to the St Edmundsbury planning blue print Vision 2031, speeding traffic is the number one community safety issue in the rural villages south of Bury St Edmunds. Certainly it is a subject which crops up at many of the parish council meetings I attend around the area.

Actually having seen the vehicle it is more of a speed camera hatchback than a van but that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Last year the police and Suffolk County Council joined forces to run speed awareness courses. Previously they had been run by the AA with any profits going out of the county into the AA’s coffers nationally.

The idea behind having the programme administered in Suffolk was so that the proceeds could be re-invested in road safety measures. It is a sad reflection on our collective driving habits that so many motorists have taken the courses in the past 12 months that the RoadSafe Board has raised enough cash to buy two of these new smaller speed camera vehicles and recruit and train a drive-operator for each of them.

These new vehicles are smaller than the standard police camera van which you might well have seen (and hopefully not activated!) parked in an entrance way driving into Chedburgh or just past the start of the 30mph limit on the road into Bury.

Because of their size the new vehicles can be used on our narrower rural roads and I am told can be deployed to enforce 40mph as well as 30mph – so watch out on the A143 driving past the garage and shop at Stradishall and the Plumber’s Arms cross roads at Wickhambrook!

I went with the Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore to see the new vehicle launched in Clare last week and I will be monitoring reports to see how effective it is.

Speed is one of those emotive issues: some parish councillors say worries are blown up out of proportion while others like the members of Lidgate PC are very keen to take firm action. The village, which as you know lies on a busy road with traffic cutting through to and from Newmarket, now has a very strong community campaign about speeding with an active community speedwatch group.

In other villages, although people complain about speeding nobody wants to get involved and set up a speedwatch group. I have funded four Vehicle Activated Signs (VAS) to be shared around the communities in the Clare area. Some of the 24 parishes I represent have signed up to the scheme, which involves recruiting volunteers to move the signs around, but about half have not.

All the evidence from the speed surveys conducted by our highways team at the county council and borne out by the data collected from the VAS machines is that it is often only a very few drivers who are causing most of the nuisance. The VAS doesn’t identify vehicles but logs the speed of each individual vehicle per hour during a 24 hour period.

It is very easy to spot a pattern, for example the VAS in Ousden routinely clocks a vehicle at around 6am in the morning Monday to Friday whizzing through the 30mph limit at 75mph.

The educated guess is that this is someone commuting to work who doesn’t give a fig about who else might be on the road – drivers, dog walkers, horse riders, cyclists. I’ve checked and the stopping distance for a vehicle going 75mph is just over 100metres. I can’t think of anywhere on the 30mph stretch through the middle of Ousden where there is a 100m visibility.

So two bits of advice: to the person who always leaves for work in a rush and roars through Ousden just beware: we are asking the police to bring in the speed camera vehicle early one morning to catch you and the thinking is a recording of 75mph in a residential road would result in a ban and a big fine. For the rest of us, it is probably best for a while not to go out for an early morning midweek spin on your bike around Ousden until this menace is under control.