Phones, Belts and 20mph limits
This time around we will be discussing two of this year’s campaigns, firstly the mobile phone campaign from March with its increased penalty and also the latest seatbelt campaign. We will also talk about 20 mph limits and making them work so the local communities they are introduced to protect see the true benefits rather than just a change of signage. This one’s going to be fairly relaxed compared to recent blogs, and shorter, so put on a little light jazz, maybe Take Five by The Dave Brubeck Quartet and grab your favourite coffee or herbal tea and relax….
Smart phone + not so smart driver = 6 points and £200
Here’s our narrative from the latest mobile phone campaign….
It’s the start of March, enough is enough, the penalty for using a mobile device whilst driving has been increased to 6 points and £200 fine. The nation stands up and takes notice as white traffic hats dominate mainstream news, never seen so many white hat adorned police officers from so many forces, it’s like an army of really stern ice cream sales people…. a new sentencing package and a week- long awareness campaign to enforce begins :
Day 1…. Sales of phone cradles have rocketed, or they must have as suddenly every other vehicle now has one complete with smart phone secured snugly inside. You can’t miss them as most are unlawfully and inappropriately placed in the swept area of the windscreen creating blind-spots galore!! Drivers treat their once beloved mobile devices like a venomous snake daring not to handle them in the confines of their car knowing that officers are just waiting for one slip up to action the new improved penalties, it’s all over the news, awareness is high, it seems to be working.
Day 2 -7…. Enforcement is high, social media posts highlighting novel detection methods and the worst offenders abound, driving instructors, HGV drivers, and Taxi drivers, the so called professional drivers, are everywhere. The responses on social media condemn the offenders, it still seems to be working.
Day 8 -14…. The mobile phone cradles still create a blind spot in the swept area, but they’re empty now, maybe everyone has given up on, lost or had their mobile device stolen…….. or maybe not. The new penalty is old news, everyone is talking about something else, the offending rate is starting to creep up…..
Day 15……the cradles are gone, as has the fear of prosecution, the phones have re-appeared back in the hands of drivers…..it’s just as it was in the last days of February once again
……and that ladies and gentlemen was the introduction of the new mobile phone penalty, an exercise in evidencing why penalties need a constant, credible threat of wide scale and probable prosecution all year round otherwise they might as well not exist…….which brings us onto the seatbelt campaign…..
Campaign Culture…this time seatbelts
Campaign Culture……you’ll hear this a lot from us over the next 12 months and the need to move away from it to a constant credible threat of prosecution all year round. It’s not that we disapprove of campaigns, they have a very important part to play in reducing the inherent threat of danger on our road network, they do impact on many educationally, raising awareness, and they impact behaviourally on some, but not on those who pose the greatest threat of harm to the many…… we’ll bring you some exciting developments in the West Midland Police Force in a blog later this week that address the issues we’ve just discussed, plus there’s more thoughts on this subject at the end of this blog,……any way we’ve digressed back to the seatbelt campaign.
Probably the second most widely contravened of the #Fatal4 offences (behind speeding) it is commonplace to see people not wearing a seatbelt in its various forms, whether it be the unsecured child in the rear through to the un-belted HGV driver, why….well it’s because it just hasn’t been enforced as rigorously as it should have. And like the mobile phone offence that preceded in this blog it probably needs a higher penalty and an all year round concentration on enforcement….let me explain.
It’s all about the bigger picture, we’ve written about this before. Not wearing a seatbelt isn’t as simplistic as it seems. If someone doesn’t wear a belt, the repercussions when it all goes wrong don’t only impact on them and their family, there is a huge cost to wider society, the expense to the NHS for one, the closure of roads placing impacting on the wider economy, the use of emergency services, the cost of a serious or even fatal RTC enquiry which runs to millions of pounds. Surely given all these factors the offence of not wearing a seatbelt should now be an endorsable offence giving at least a 3 point penalty. The driver should be responsible for what occurs in their vehicle, the not wearing of a belt by any occupant should impact on the driver, don’t belt up, don’t get driven, if the driver choses to drive with an unsecured passenger then points should be the consequence. But again, it would need a continuous, realistic threat of enforcement, if not such legislation would be just a waste of ink upon the ever growing statute books. But of course laws needs enforcement, enforcement needs enforcers which brings us nicely onto 20mph limits…………….
20 is Plenty – Making it work
20mph limits are the future in urban areas, we’ve discussed the arguments for and against before, but the residents of the areas in Birmingham that have now had them since October last year simply love them, and that is the essence of why their enforcement is so important, because like #OpClosePass , #OpSaferSchools and #OpSaferCross, it is essentially a community policing project, the enforcement brings an improvement in quality of life and transport choices to residents in effected areas, and that is so very important in modern day society. The benefits of communities being able to engage with and choose sustainable healthier transport choices bring so many positives on so many fronts, not to create a safer road network to enable such choices to all would simply be a disgrace…….which is why we were a little dismayed to hear that in some parts of the country 20 mph limits were at risk, because apparently drivers were not complying with them !!!
Well what a surprise….drivers that have for decades failed to comply with 30mph limits now failed to comply with the new 20mph limits…shocker….never saw that coming. Apparently the change of signage didn’t make a bit of difference to their road going behaviour, who would of thought…….
The self-enforcing 20mph limit is a myth, take it from experienced traffic officers who regularly pursue vehicles over and around all manner of traffic calming measures at speeds in excess of 60mph, there is no such thing. So when some state 20mph limits shouldn’t be enforced, they are in effect “voluntary” we sit here with a quite quizzical look upon our faces. You see no other speed limits have to be self -enforcing, when we drop limits in rural areas, say villages or particularly hazardous country roads, we enforce to ensure compliance, “Smart” motorways with their variable limits have galleries of enforcing cameras. We know 20mph limits are evidently the most important speed limit to our communities, and have the largest potential of any limit to positively effect lifestyle choices and reduce the amount of people killed or seriously injured on our roads, so why not enforce them ?
Well in the West Midlands we will, rigorously. We’ve spent the last 6 months testing the waters with tactics to see what works best and will in the coming months produce a blog detailing how we will make the 20 mph limits work to their full potential, benefiting all in our region. And those who oppose the idea will in time come around as the concepts of “children being able to play in the street, cycle to school, parents taking the healthier option to walk or cycle to the shops become a reality as the motor vehicle, for so long the negative influence that prevents positive lifestyle choices, is forced into community chosen compliance where it still has a large part to play to the transport infrastructure of our region, but a safer and healthier one.
In this blog we’ve talked about the need for a continuous probable threat of prosecution to be present to ensure wide-scale compliance with the laws that are so commonly broken on our roads. Campaigns and the resulting “Campaign culture” that preside over many of the nation’s efforts to reduce the danger on roads offer temporary solace from the seemingly never ending stream of offending by all to many road users. Effective whilst in progress and for a short time after they have a great role to play at key times of the year, such as the Christmas drink drive campaign. All too often though key messages are quickly forgotten as the public’s attention switches to more recent news and the behaviour of those who pose the greatest threat to others on our roads remains unchanged.
Well we think we’ve got the answer that will resolve the never ending cycle of peak/trough wide-scale offending, it’s exciting and new, it’s been taking up a lot of our time over the last month, thus our absence from our social media channels…….but you’ll have to wait until later in the week for the details.
That’s it for this one, told you it would be short compared to our normal prolonged ramblings….time for a little more jazz, cake and your favourite brew.
Safe journeys all.