Author Archives: pchodson

Driving…an extinction event

The golden age of driving….the beginning of the end

This blogs all about the current state of motoring, not only in our region but nation-wide, and is a wake-up call to all those who think that the golden age of motoring has a future. It’s hard to admit, especially for the likes of ourselves, after all most traffic officers have an emotional attachment to driving and the internal combustion engine in at least one of its inceptions, but the writings on the wall, we are living in the last generations of driving, and with it the last generations of Traffic Officers, at least in their current inception….so grab a brew, a few biscuits and dunk and read away, or drop a few crumbs if you prefer not to dunk. Oh and the soundtrack to read this one to should be a Black Sabbath track as Aston’s finest have called it a day, maybe The Wizard or for the “hard pressed motorists” out there (aka those who can’t drive or ride within the law)…….. Paranoid……

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Ahhh, another “trusted” driver fails to uphold their end of the contract

 

 

 

 

“Pleasure drive” – the ultimate oxymoron?

Hilarious isn’t it the term pleasure drive, is there such a thing anymore? There certainly doesn’t seem to anyone relaxed and enjoying the experience, at best a stressful yet functional part of modern life, at worst a bizarre form of 21st Century mock gladiatorial combat where the participants (supposedly law abiding citizens of the land) exhibit traits and behaviour they would never dream of displaying in any other area of their everyday life. Welcome to the beginning of the end, and as with everything that ends, it is usually down to our own behaviour. This particular extinction event, the demise of the driver is no different.

 

The end is nigh!

We were trusted with the ultimate responsibility, the task of piloting motorised vehicles, all be it to a strict set of laws and guidelines, necessary due to the damage a motorised vehicle of any size or form can do to the frail human form. Yet we have shown as a collective, us drivers and riders of mechanically propelled vehicles, that we are incapable of carrying the burden and shrug continually the social responsibility of being good law abiding road users. We championed and celebrated all that is good and enjoyable with motor vehicles, the performance, the luxury, everything that made us look beyond the negatives, the current main one being the 5 people who die and 63 who are seriously injured daily on our road network due to the way we pilot them. Not to mention the tens of thousands a year whose early demise is aided by our favourite steel polluting machines, an impact that is now sending serious repercussions throughout the health and transport world. Imagine if you put those 5 people who die daily and 63 who are seriously injured on a train or plane, there would be a national outcry, no one would use such a dangerous form of transport, it’s insane, almost inhuman some might say. But alas it’s the selfish price we continue to pay, a price that could be dramatically reduced if everyone just obeyed the law and showed due respect to each other, but as I have previously mentioned we have proved ourselves incapable of doing this. That is why technology has taken control of the driver’s destiny, and that destiny is the demise of the driver.  Manufacturers see this and are striving to be the first to make it work. It’s also part of the answer to congestion and pollution issues, after all your self- driving vehicle will not make the errors of judgement or break the road traffic laws that drivers currently do, reducing collisions dramatically keeping roads running smoothly at the busiest of times, and of course driving in the most environmentally appropriate fashion at all times. Computer controlled vehicles will link in with traffic systems reducing waiting times; they won’t block junctions, roundabouts or crossings. Basically they will do everything the human driver or rider has proven themselves unwilling or incapable of doing.  But in the meantime let us explore what those who are minded to do something about the current dire state of motoring can actually do to reduce the horrific cost in death and injury the nation currently demands to keep our road network running.

 

The Behaviour test

Stand outside a school at the start or end of the school day and watch the behaviour of passing drivers. See how many you can catch with a phone in their hand, speeding and the other multitude of sins we have to deal with daily, but surely this should be where a driver is most cautious, after all the likelihood of a child making the ultimate error is at its upmost at such a location, drivers care….don’t they ?. Then go into the busy city centre with its 24/7 congestion plus thousands of vulnerable road users, cyclists and pedestrians everywhere, again surely the drivers would be paying attention, driving slowly, just in case? Then go onto the rural road, unseen potential hazards everywhere around each corner, horses, cyclists, farm vehicles, do you ever see any driver driving to the conditions before them. How many collisions in rain or fog are due to vehicles being too fast and too close? How many of our children must we lose because people think they can drive a car or ride a motorbike like it’s a video game? It’s all down to driver behaviour, remove the driver, remove the collision, it’s simple, vehicles don’t crash themselves. Some will be reading this and uttering to themselves “It’s just the few, I’m a good driver”, are you? Do you drive like it’s your driving test every day? Do you stay under every speed limit, always signal when you should, use your lights correctly, stop at the amber instead of inanely racing towards it to beat the red, wear your seat belt?, The list is endless when it comes to things supposed “good competent” drivers don’t do. The test is the minimum standard, if you don’t drive or ride to that standard every time you get on the road you are part of the problem, be honest with yourselves…….

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So many people to look out for yet most drivers see none of this or chose to ignore, to everyone else’s peril !

Some will say, “why don’t you tell them to pay attention, slow down, take care” well let’s play a game, how many road safety campaigns can you remember….., it’s not hard, we have over a dozen in their various forms a year. We’ve tried to tell them, to educate. We even have a theory and practical test to ensure motorists are fit for the road to reinforce the necessity of complying with the law and having a careful and considerate nature towards our road use. Do the campaigns or test’s effect driver behaviour? we all know the answer. People will read headlines in the national press about families being killed by a driver who used his phone, broke the law, and utter how terrible it was…….. as they travel down the road above the speed limit, phone in their lap with a light out, having never checked their tyre pressures or condition……but they did take the time to have illegal dangerous tints to fitted their drivers windows, or hang something from their rear view mirror that partially blocks their forward view……

 

Changing behaviour, the tools of the trade

The most effective tool to curtail adverse driver behaviour is the threat of prosecution ,if people think they will be caught doing something they don’t do it, we’ll come onto that later…but first another piece of technology that precedes the driverless car, the insurance black box. Yes that’s right those little black boxes really do work, it would seem that the threat of having your insurance cancelled and suffering a large financial penalty if you drive to a substandard level seems to work, fancy that…..it’s almost like enforcement by the back door, shame that insurance companies don’t make them mandatory really, the effect would be profound, cheaper policies, better driving, insurance monitoring black boxes literally saving lives, contributing to the wellbeing of society………just a thought. And for those who are screaming “it’s just the big brother nanny state telling us what to do and how to live our lives” just remember, drivers were trusted to do the right thing, but alas can’t, just stand at the side of any road with a speed gun and see how many cars actually exceed the speed limit, most do. Some may complain of the nanny state but it’s become increasingly necessary when it comes to motorised road use, just look at the comments by most drivers regards road safety on social media, attitude says a lot about behaviour, if you went on some comments seen on social media regards sharing the road and improving safety you wouldn’t let these people drive a child’s pedal car around your garden, let alone a vehicle on the road with all the risk that carries. You see many like to blame someone else, blame the victim, many just don’t have the attitude or demeanour to be on the road in the first place, modern day personalities and priorities just don’t mix with being in charge of a potential killing machine.

Which leads us nicely back to our definition of the “hard pressed motorist” ….the motorist who is expected to obey the law……..

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A speed check at one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in Birmingham, drivers caught at 50 % above the speed limit whilst on their phone, says it all really….

 

 

 

The perfect storm is coming

What’s he on about now I hear you say, well it’s like this, traffic levels are rising at about 1.4% a year. Factor in population growth, of which those in the age bracket most likely to drive is swelled by migration and you see that within 8 years we will have over 10% more vehicles on our roads. Anyone think we’ll have 10 % more road capacity? Imagine the cost for a start, it’s impossible.

So we have more motor vehicles, at the same time we will have more vulnerable road users, as those who are economically excluded from the motor vehicle select club or those who have consciously chosen to “do their bit” and participate in a healthier, cleaner form of transport actually look to take advantage of their local authorities transport plan. You will notice that no local authorities are looking to increase vehicular traffic, to do so would be tantamount to community “self-harming”. The consequence to the driver of this “perfect storm” is more time spent watching a stationary queue of traffic stretching before them, the consequence for those not sat in a vehicle is an increased risk of injury, here’s why ……

You see the modern motor vehicle is a fine feat of engineering, it can be driven into a brick wall at 50mph and the occupants can walk away relatively injury free. This “security” has however endangered vulnerable road users where it protects the driver. Drivers with their subliminal feeling of safety relax, pay less attention, start practicing poor driving, they speed, don’t pay attention, release their frustration that’s been compounded by sitting in slow moving or stationary traffic with an aggressive driving demeanour, all to the detriment of vulnerable road users. Just look at how may don’t wear a seatbelt properly or at all, this is the best evidence of how safe most feel inside a modern vehicle. Given our increasing levels of both vehicular traffic being driven to an ever poorer standard and more vulnerable road users in a finite area of road we are left with only one inevitable consequence, more vulnerable road users killed and seriously on our roads, in contrast to those in vehicles who become safer in heavy traffic due to reduced collision speeds. Now as a police force we are duty bound to protect the vulnerable, pedestrians, child and elderly pedestrians especially, those making socially beneficial transport choices such as cyclists, we are duty bound to support our communities transport policies and do all we can to create an environment where they can succeed. The long and short of it is drivers, who pose the greatest threat of harm on our roads need to get their house in order, or we’ll do it for them.

 

Twenties plenty and the car vs pedestrian

Why 20mph limits? Well because firstly it cuts down dramatically the numbers killed and seriously injured on our urban roads, quite simply it gives drivers and other road users the time needed to first make the correct driving decisions and second react to others mistakes, i.e. that child who suddenly runs into the road or the vehicle that pulls out in-front of you. If nothing else it lessens the seriousness of any collision. 20mph is not far below the average speed for many of our urban roads anyway so time wise drivers are not really losing out either, even if they were, small price to pay to lessen the carnage on our roads surely…..now don’t be selfish drivers after all you only get to the back of the next traffic jam fractionally quicker! Plus it won’t be long given the rising congestion levels before we reach the capital’s average speed of 7.5mph!! So just think in a few years a 20mph limit will be literally be light speed compared to the average speed of traffic on our roads.

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Many will say that no one drives to Birmingham’s new 20mph limits, this is true many don’t, but they will. Despite a highly publicised campaign of educational measures including roadside educational alternatives to prosecution we get numerous complaints and too often see the effects of drivers exceeding the limit. So “Out goes the carrot and in comes the stick”, after nearly 6 months of the limits it’s apparent that many drivers just don’t care or are incapable of driving to the new limit, just like they can’t drive to most limits, including the old 30mph limits. Again we come back to the previously stated situation where drivers proved themselves incapable collectively of driving at 30mph or below, you had your chance now 20mph limits are deemed necessary to protect our communities from drivers who don’t meet the standard of “safe and competent road users”. We need somewhere in the region of one in four compliance for the limits to be effective given urban traffic levels, the one in four slow everyone else down and produce safer roads. We will achieve this through enforcement, we will even use covert speed checks if necessary in the most vulnerable of locations, the loss of life on our regions roads is unacceptable to our communities, some drivers may be dismayed and distraught at the idea of us getting all “sneaky” to catch dangerous drivers, but they had their chance, “the gloves are off” as they say when it comes to the fight against the dangerous motorist in our region. But remember those who can drive to the required standard, “the law abiding motorist” have nothing to worry about, quite the opposite their journeys should become more pleasant as a result. Whilst we are on the subject our region does have some very good drivers, our plain clothes cyclists used in #OpClosePass have been overtaken by tens of thousands of very good, considerate drivers on our regions roads, and they are in the majority and should rest easy in the knowledge that we target only those who pose a threat, those doing the speed limit, not using their phone, not driving without due care and attention never get stopped, funny that………and they never complain when we start prosecuting those who do not comply with the law either, only poor incompetent drivers complain about enforcement campaigns, because they are the ones who are the problem and need to worry.

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Analysis of KSI data shows that drivers are not paying attention at vulnerable locations.

 

And for those who say “traffic cops, nothing better to do…” your right…..we haven’t got anything better to do…….reducing the amount of people killed and seriously injured on our roads is at the top of our list of priorities, so why would we do anything else ?

Our 2017 wish list

If we could change anything to make this year better than the last, these would be top of our road safety wishlist….it is representative of the personal opinions of myself and my colleagues, not the West Midlands Police, though you would be hard pressed to find anyone in our organisation who would disagree.

Points don’t mean prizes !!

12 points is hard to get for a competent safe driver, in fact they don’t get anywhere near. Some pick up 3 at some point during their driving when they switch off and fall below the expected standard, triggering a speed camera or the like, or some might have to attend an educational course when their driving again slips below the expected standard. It serves as a wakeup call to most that their driving and awareness isn’t up to the required standard and they rarely trouble the Traffic Process Office again. So to get to twelve points shows a real inability to drive to a safe and competent level. 12 points should result in disqualification, the farce of letting drivers continue past 12 points for whatever reason is an affront to those who have lost loved ones to drivers who regularly break the law, time it stopped.

Disqualification = mandatory retest

In order to get disqualified from driving you will have had to show a continued disregard for the law or a single act of such magnitude that a court feels you must lose your licence for a period of time. Either of these scenarios shows that such a driver clearly does not have the correct demeanour, responsibility, ability or attitude to be a safe and competent driver and as such is a risk to the safety of everyone else on the road. Surely then given this they should be all be retested as a result, they have clearly displayed the inability to be a safe responsible road user, only a retest can ensure they once again, following their disqualification be deemed fit to be a safe licence holder once again. Courts can impose a disqualification until test passed, we would like to see it imposed for all disqualifications under all circumstances. After all we revoke the licences of new drivers who reach 6 points in their first 2 years of driving resulting in a retest, why not do the same for those who reach 12, or are disqualified for a single offence. By taking a theory test and practical test only then can they prove they are once again at the level that is both practically and mentally suitable to be in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle on our roads.

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You are a huge threat to others when behind the wheel, drivers need to wake up to that fact and drive accordingly ! A wholesale change in driving attitudes is required.

 

 

Reduce the drink drive level

It’s been a success in Scotland, is any other reason needed to follow suit ?, and although this will cause great dismay to many Brexiteers Europe also has the same level as Scotland with no issues making the roads safer all. It’s about time we woke up and caught up, a reduction in the drink drive level leaves no uncertainty such as the situation we have currently where people think its okay to have one or two and drive. The correct amount to drink when driving is nothing, anyone who thinks otherwise again displays all the qualities that lead to the innocent dying on our roads. Once again our drink drive level is yet more evidence as to our prevailing attitude towards road safety in our country.

 

A change in attitude

If I was to say we have a problem with a “Top Gear” mentality its’s not an intentional slight on the programme, it’s a scenario where the selfish, inconsiderate attitude of a motorist takes precedence over the safety of others. This is clearly displayed all too regularly on our roads, it need s to stop. We need caring considerate motorists who display all the traits that prove they are responsible road users. Our vulnerable road users need to come first, those whose choice of transportation is environmentally friendly, reduces congestion, leads to a healthier lifestyle lessening the burden on other public services are doing everything right, everything society asks of them, the motorist, all be it under some circumstances with no alternative, is doing the opposite. Expect in the coming years road safety practitioners to increasingly look to protect and promote those transport choices currently considered vulnerable by making them safe, secure and desirable transport choices. Motorists are going to have to get used to this and the changes in their behaviour and road use it will bring, a change in attitude and an acceptance of no longer being the priority on our road system will be needed.

So that’s where we are, this blogs been a bit of a “scene setter” if you like for what you will see over the next few years. Anyone who thinks differently really does have their head in the sand, if you don’t believe me, have a look at your local transport plan, you will see that vehicles and drivers have no place anymore in our transport solutions, at least not until the driver is finally extinct, having being replaced by a computer and all our vehicles are cleaner and more efficient to the point where they no longer negatively impact on our communities. In an age where we are building record numbers of vehicles in this country we are no longer building roads for them, quite the opposite, all major transport investment is rail, cycle or pedestrian focused.

In the meantime when we do drive our vehicles we must remember that when we do we pose a greater threat to other people than at any other point in our existence. The motor vehicle is a far more destructive and efficient weapon than the gun, remember that next time you drive or ride. If someone handed you a loaded gun you would handle it with the upmost care, do the same in your motor vehicle, because if you don’t, the results are pretty much the same.

At the start you will have read “The Beginning of the End” and it is just the beginning, there’s a good few more years of people being able to drive yet before the technology is ready to take over completely, until we get there let’s make it as painless as possible, take great care when you’re out there, because remember it’s at this point in your daily existence you are the greatest threat not only to yourself, but everyone one else on that road.

For those who have read this and are distraught at the thought that the days of driving are numbered listen to one last Black Sabbath track……”It’s alright”….and remember you can always drive however you like on your games consoles 😉

 

In the next few blogs we’ll look at enforcing the new mobile phone penalties due in March, our new Operation to protect all vulnerable road users at collision hotspots OpSaferCrossing, and everyone’s favourite  insurance, it’s scams, the uninsured, the falsely insured and we’ll also focus on the insurers, and how some companies aren’t really helping a worsening situation.

Climbing Mountains….

A corner turned, a long road ahead

Fruitcake, yes you’re probably going to need a good filling fruitcake for this one, and a nice cup of tea, definitely should accompany fruitcake with a nice cup of traditional tea….followed by a little cheese….and maybe a small glass of warming port…..welcome to the next Safer Cycling blog

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Never happier than with tea, and a bit of cake…..Hudson and Hodson

 

 

We’ve been busy, we’ve been very busy, what started as a conversation between two traffic officers and one member of the Birmingham Cycle Revolution Team over a cup of tea and some chocolate bunnies (yes it was Easter !!), followed by a few hastily drawn sketches 20 minutes later of an educational road mat,  Operation Closepass #GiveSpaceBeSafe has now become a huge thing, a huge work generating  quite awkward thing. Awkward you may ask, why awkward? Well it was rather well received,  all of sudden we were receiving praise and some might say being “liked” which is rather discomforting for traffic officers, as we are somewhat conditioned to being disliked and receiving negative feedback. After all we are not the smiley happy branch of the modern police force, we are the spreaders of misery and gloom generally among the road going populace, the dour faced donut eating aviator wearing, Road Traffic Act preachers of doom. So the positive feedback and support for our first tender new steps in a new direction have left us standing around, blushing slightly with our hands behind our backs whispering things like “well this is all a little unnecessary, we’re only doing what we are paid to do”. Overnight what the officers involved did on a daily basis changed dramatically, there have been no rest days since the start of September, the phones have rung every day, whether it’s our press department, journalists, editors of TV shows or just the interested public the demand has been off the scale. At the same time normal policing has had to continue, those officers involved drive a traffic car 24/7, doing what traffic officers are normally deemed to do, you know that “police Interceptors or road wars” type of thing, you know the drill. So everyone involved, including the supervision are a little bleary eyed but thankful of the great support received from all parts of the road going community, we are also thankful for the negative feedback received from some members of the public and press, your response which was in the minority, strengthens our faith that we have made the right decisions in order to make our roads and communities safer, thankyou, after all you were most likely our primary target audience, and now you’re aware so there can be no excuses…….we don’t care what you think, a life is a life, the law is the law, it’s all a matter of priorities, get used to it, it’s the future.

Then in the midst of this success driven cacophony of chaos there’s two officers who sit deep in conversation, which when not dominated by Star Wars conspiracy theories, comic books, Op Hercules tactics (an illegal street racing operation, their other project), and their somewhat eclectic music tastes, goes something like this “ Well that went rather well”  “Well yes we always knew it would, we just needed the opportunity” “What next then” “More of the same I suppose” “Got the book” “Of Course” and out comes the book of Blue Sky Thinking Road Safety Ops (yes it really does exist !) as you see #OpClosepass  #GiveSpaceBeSafe was just the first of what will be hopefully a string of CMPG Roads Policing initiatives centred on the safeguarding of our vulnerable road users. Then there follows cake and a beverage or two…..as the next plans are hatched to promote improved, safer driving and enforce the law against those who endanger others daily.

 

Close Pass update

 

Op Closepass has been a success, that’s all you can say really. It was cost neutral, just part of our everyday patrols. We have used officers own bikes, equipment and also Cycliq kindly gave us Fly cameras to test, so it cost nothing. It was well received, and most importantly had an immediate impact. Within a week cyclists were contacting us to tell us things had had not only improved, but improved considerably, there were still close passes, always will be, “can’t get them all”, but they have become a rarity rather than commonplace. We noticed the difference, having to move locations on press days as our usual preferred spots now harboured good driving habits, we were literally starting to struggle to find a volume of offences to deal with. Admittedly the huge press attention helped, but if our future efforts to protect vulnerable road users have half the impact that this operation has had we will be guaranteed success each time. Don’t get us wrong, we know there is still a mountain to climb, but if a mountain climbing analogy was needed, let’s just say we’ve got the equipment and made base camp, where we currently enjoy cake and a beverage before pushing on to the lower slopes. The summit, a view from which we can see a land where we let our loved one’s take part in their journey’s as vulnerable road users without undue worry is still sadly out of sight, but hopefully someday soon we will see the view of this promised land. Until then we continue climbing the mountain…..

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Excuses, excuses………..

Feedback from offenders has been good, 99 % of the time. Some of the excuses not so good, but they left with the knowledge and change in perception necessary to firstly be aware of, and then overtake or account for cyclists on the road safely in future. Some said they hadn’t seen the cyclist at all, maybe in the belief that it was better to say this than admit poor driving judgement, both don’t bode well regards their everyday driving ! But they were caught, and hopefully reformed before their poor driving harmed another. The 1% have left with a piece of paper that is titled “Traffic Process Report”, no further explanation is needed, they failed to show not only the driving skills necessary but also the aptitude to guarantee belief they won’t endanger a vulnerable road user again. This 1% of course does not include those who were ruled out of the immediate educational input due to additional offences. These drivers would include those with no tax or insurance, those on the phone, the lady putting her dog back in its cage, the man reading the delivery note in one hand whilst holding his phone in the other…..you think of it, we’ve had an offender who can make your worst road going nightmare come true !

This is why Op Closepass works so well, it targets and catches those who endanger the vulnerable on a daily basis, tens of thousands of drivers have encountered and overtaken our cyclists displaying all the attributes necessary to be not only safe and competent drivers but at times exemplary, we have seen some fantastic driving and although you will never know, if we could stop you and shake your hand we would, unfortunately we still have too many poor drivers to occupy our time at the moment….

But on a side note we always thought that what if in every book of tickets at the back there was a gift voucher that we could give out to particularly good drivers or riders we encountered, that would be novel wouldn’t it. Would people change their driving or riding in the hope that they might get caught being “good”…..(no boss I haven’t drank all the port having finished the fruit cake and cheese 😉

 

What is apparent from Op Close Pass is how little attention drivers actually pay to what is going on around them. This is because of a number of factors but primarily because drivers have little to fear when it comes to their own personal safety on the road. The modern motor vehicle is a fine feat of engineering, it can be driven into a brick wall at 50mph and the occupants can walk away relatively injury free. This “security” has however endangered vulnerable road users where it protects the driver. Drivers with their subliminal feeling of safety relax, pay less attention, start practicing poor driving, they speed, don’t pay attention, all to the detriment of vulnerable road users. This modern day wholesale rapid decline in driving standards combined with ever increasing traffic volume has inevitably seen vulnerable road users bear the unfortunate brunt of this driving trend. As we try to fit an increasing amount of traffic onto the same amount of road the chances of conflict increase proportionally. Factor in the declining amount of attention paid by drivers and the declining standard in driving and it’s only the vulnerable who are threatened. Vulnerable road users instinctively pay more attention, it’s only natural, vulnerability hones the senses. Vehicle drivers cocooned in their protective shells do the exact opposite, they pay less and less attention, to both other road users and road laws.

Falling levels of enforcement have a part to play in this trend, we know this, our last department leader Chief Supt Keasey, now moved onto pastures new stated exactly this to the transport select committee who agreed. You don’t have to be a road safety expert to realise that those with very little chance of being caught will continually offend, that’s why we are determined to utilise our time and talents where they have the most impact, targeted intelligence led enforcement. This combined with greater opportunities for third party reporting should reverse the trend and hopefully see an improvement.

What next

Op Close will is now an everyday part of our workstream, as it should be, its value increasing with each deployment, additional “value adding” offences are being identified, and the operation is continually being honed to be more effective. Locations in Coventry, Solihull and West Bromwich are all pencilled in for attention. We are constantly evolving the Operation, in this New Year we will hopefully be joined by staff from the West Midlands Fire Service Cycle Safety Team, who will deliver the 15 minute educational input instead of one of our officers. Why the change you might ask?, well for a start it frees up our officer to deal with the “other” offences that the operation is detecting in ever increasing numbers. Secondly our partners in the Fire Service come without the “baggage” that some associate with the police and so the educational input is better received.

New bespoke operations concentrating on distracted drivers and also protecting schoolchildren and the elderly on their pedestrian journeys are being approved in the same vain as Op Closepass.  Our favourite analyst Chris has worked his magic once again and has been duly rewarded with calorific carbohydrate mood enhancing treats (otherwise known as chocolate biscuits). One lowlight of the analysis was the finding that over a third of pedestrian KSI’s occurred on or at pedestrian crossings…which again begs the question what are drivers paying attention to at such vulnerable locations…

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Our analyst Chris has been busy again, as has PC Hodson who doodles when thinking!

Birmingham’s 20mph limits are now old news, which means every driver should be aware and complying, to ensure they are we will be out doing what we do best, enforcing the law in these areas. There is really no excuse for speeding, no-one seems to do it on their test………, we’ll be out there with the speed gun, every willing participant will leave with a piece of paper, resulting in a fine and points or an educational course, for those who might disagree with speed checks, read this https://trafficwmp.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/cash-cows-stealth-taxes-and-revenue-raisers/ and if you still disagree, well then you really shouldn’t be the road at all !

These new operations primarily designed to protect pedestrians will of course naturally protect all other vulnerable road users as they significantly concentrate driver’s attention in the most vulnerable of areas. It all supports our regions latest transport plans, and rightly so, after all our communities rightly deserve cleaner, healthier and enjoyable transport opportunities, it’s our job to create an environment which enables safe worry free participation, and as we all know that means curtailing the behaviour of those road users who endanger vulnerable road users, only then will our regions transport goals be achieved.

As we have said previously we will concentrate on those offences and offenders who pose the greatest threat of harm to others, our analysts will help pinpoint locations and also shape our tactics. For example although we like to be highly visible as it has crime prevention and reassurance benefits, if a particular road safety problem requires a covert approach we will use it, offending drivers are going to have to get used to the reality that we will use every tool at our disposal to save lives on our roads.

We aim to rely ever increasingly on our road safety partners to deliver what we term “soft education”, the educating in schools, youth and faith groups, the exchanging places scheme etc. We realise that we, traffic officers are becoming an ever increasing rare and valuable resource, and so our time needs to be spent doing what we do best, enforcing the law and delivering “hard education” as seen in Op ClosePass.

 

Third party footage prosecutions

 

Much like #OpClosepass, third party footage prosecutions have now become the “norm” for ourselves. The numbers of close pass due care offences we receive have dropped by about 50% since the #GiveSpaceBeSafe initiative took effect on our regions roads, we still get the same amount of red light, mobile phone and other offences via third party footage though, no change there yet!  Ultimately Op Closepass will be judged on KSI figures and the increase in the number of people cycling, and rightly so, but what is certain is that to succeed it must run alongside a good easy to use and successful 3rd party reporting scheme. We believe we have achieved this to the point where offenders are starting to realise there doesn’t need to be a police officer present and witnessing for their offending to be detected and punished, that element of doubt put in a potential offenders mind works wonders, the psychology of offending is a wonderful thing and easily manipulated as soon as the threat of potential continuous detection is introduced.

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Third party video prosecutions, protecting all road users not just cyclists

The one thing third party reporting has brought to the fore is that the majority of good law abiding road users, not just vulnerable ones, want the opportunity to report poor road use or offending and see it acted upon . This stream of offence detection and prosecution really will have a large part to play in the future of road safety, after all we can’t be everywhere at once to deal with offending on our roads, but given the ever increasing traffic levels and the spread of vehicle born cameras, there will always be someone with the right intentions waiting to do the right thing.  We are still awaiting our digital reporting portal, this should make the process easier and encourage more to participate, but we have literally stopped counting how many road users we have prosecuted now using 3rd party footage, it’s just normal policing and will pay a large part in future efforts to make our regions road network safer for all.

It’s not all been going to plan though, we have had at least one report made to the traffic process office that wasn’t dealt with in the correct manner, this was a mistake made and apologies have been made, Processes have been put in place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, like we said at the start “base camp achieved, the summit is a long way off”.

 

A Thankyou

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Smiling, twice in one blog, that’s a record for traffic officers !

As many will be aware we were given an award for our efforts by the Road Danger Reduction Forum and had a great evening at the House of Lords enjoying the company of many who are as passionate as ourselves when it comes to saving lives on our roads. As I wrote earlier, we are not used to praise from outside our organisation, it is quite alien to ourselves, we are grateful to all those who support us and our work. We really couldn’t do it without you and even though we have an exceptionally supportive management team right the way up to our Chief Constable, it is reassuring to know for both them and ourselves that our efforts are well placed and valued.

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We would love to personally thank whoever sent these choccies but the card had no details, but if your reading “Thankyou”, carbohydrate based mood enhancement is always appreciated, good fuel for the Operation as well !

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Thankyou to Safe Cycling Eire for the goodies, this will appear as part of #OpClosePass in the very near future

 

 

 

So to all those who have supported with kind words, sent kit to use or chocolate to fuel the Op Close Pass cyclists, thankyou.

“Shine a light”

For the last two years we’ve tackled the issue of unlit cyclists by having the now well used “alternative” to prosecution approach of giving away light sets provided by Birmingham City Council and local Universities. We have dealt with over 400 offences in this fashion. We don’t have special events or targeted operations anymore, we carry a few sets of lights in our kit bags and deal with offences as we come across them. What we do notice as that most offenders participating in the scheme are teenagers or from newly arrived communities and are apparently unaware of the law attaining to lights on cycles at night. Both groups often have never had any cycling training or road law input. Many of the teenagers or young adults are of a generation that had no “Bikeability” training or the like during their school years. Now with the widespread use of “bikeability” type training both in schools and in all areas of our community’s, hopefully this should be slowly addressed and we should find ourselves giving away fewer sets of lights.

The rise in numbers of these offending groups however only shows how cycling groups that aren’t really accounted for under the usual statistics are on the rise, which is a great positive for the future of cycling.

“Illuminating Stuff”

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Two up front, three behind

Want a little advice on lights well this is our take on what’s best.

  1. A steady light is better than a flasher but if you can have both then that’s the best option. The combination of the 2 provides attention, and the 2 lights even with one being a “flasher” are better for the eye to track making judging speed and direction easier for the observant motorist or pedestrian.
  2. Two to the rear is also the best option, again for the same reasons as above and if you can place them on differing axis i.e. one on the seatpost and one on a chainstay or seatstay again the effect is enhanced.
  3. Position so as not to “dazzle or blind” other road users. Most quality front cycle lights are better than the lights on some scooters, position for best road illumination but also be considerate.
  4. Two lights to the rear and fore also cater for a light or battery failure. Personally I have two front lights and 3 to the rear.
  5. Beware the “Halo” effect. At night you can become very hard to see no matter how well you are lit if you have a bright light very close to the rear of you, i.e. if a following vehicle has its main beams on or an inappropriately fitted bulb and is tailgating you or uncomfortably close not giving room to the rear. On the approach to junctions this can be particularly problematic. If the following vehicle flicks on an indicator and turns left the waiting vehicle might exit the junction not having seen you in front of the turning vehicle as you can become hidden in the “glare” of the vehicle’s lights behind. Although this set of circumstances is thankfully extremely rare you can combat any such effect by moving out from the nearside to an almost prime position, so your light doesn’t get lost in the “Halo” effect of the following cars lights, also an “flasher” can help getting you noticed in high traffic volumes with many lights to get “lost” to the attention in.
  6. If you look directly at a driver with a helmet mounted light on you can be effectively shining a light in their eyes, save the bright helmet lights for the trails, a simple single low level led flasher on your helmet does the trick nicely on the road if you want a light on your helmet.
  7. Nothing to do with lights but when it comes to clothing at night remember reflectivity is the key. Black kit covered in Scotchlite or similar is far more effective than hi vis with none.
  8. And remember, you could be as easy to see as a supernova exploding in your neighbour’s garden, but if another road user is distracted by their phone, lunch or whatever else they prioritise above your wellbeing they won’t see you because they aren’t looking. Ride defensively always, think the worst of everyone and prepare for the unexpected, give yourself time and space to react wherever possible, that’s the mind set we use in our road use, at work and at home, unfortunate but necessary until we reach the “mountain summit”.

 

 

Time for a coffee and a mint, nearly finished !

Well that’s it for now, we recommend reading the next Traffic Blog which will be published in a couple of weeks, it will concentrate on our efforts to prevent pedestrian KSI’s but will include measures that will keep all vulnerable road users safe. Expect more Op ClosePass updates as the year progresses. On 13th January we are holding a Close Pass forum to spread our mindset more than anything when it comes to protecting vulnerable road users, we will of course be covering the practicalities of the operation also for those attending. The actual Operation is easily replicated, changing decades of thinking and resulting practice which is now largely inappropriate given the transport and associated road safety issues we collectively face as a nation is a much harder task……mountains to climb you see…….cake to eat……port to…..I’ll stop there.

 

Safe Cycling All.

Junction Malfunction and a New Dawn

 

 

Despite the first part of this blog being about collisions and keeping safe at the most vulnerable parts of our cycling journeys, hopefully you will come out the other side of this edition of the Safer Cycling blog with a large amount of positivity, so grab a coffee, and maybe even a slice of cake and read on. Oh this blog is a little on the large side, we tried to make it smaller but I’m sure you’ll agree everything that’s in there is necessary, there’s no padding for effect, so in hindsight might want to make it two slices of cake……

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Yet another near miss as a driver pulls across the path of the cyclist

 

Junction Malfunction

When we started the Safer Cycling concept we needed some direction, something on which we could concentrate our efforts to best see results for the work we wanted to do, our core task being to keep vulnerable road users safe on their journeys about the region. In order to make our efforts precise and properly targeted we enlisted the help of our in house analysts at the Central Motorway Police Group. They did what they do best, crunch figures, draw conclusions and give recommendations, the results were as expected, well as expected to those with experience of dealing with collisions involving cyclists, and these collisions were often the ones that did not make the headlines.

The most common complaint we receive from cyclists and now action in the way of prosecution is the close pass scenario, the classic due care and attention offence. This isn’t to be un-expected, we have even highlighted our own close pass experiences and footage/photo’s on our twitter account and previous blogs. So it’s no surprise to all that this remains the priority for most cyclists and more importantly “those considering cycling” when it comes to keeping vulnerable road users safe. However whether it’s a misconception by many or just a lack of awareness the close pass scenario is far from being the greatest threat to cyclists on our regions roads. Between 2010 and 2014 there were 530 KSI (killed or seriously injured) RTC’s (Road Traffic Collisions)involving bicycles, 517 of those KSI RTC’s (98%) involved at least one other vehicle. Of these the most common vehicle to be involved in a KSI RTC with a cyclist was a car (84% of KSI RTC’s).

But this is where the big misconception arises as 75% of KSI RTC’s involving cyclists in the West Midlands from 2010 to 2014 occurred within 20 metres of a junction, involving a cyclist and “another” vehicle. Further analysis (I won’t bore you with the figures, tables etc.) showed that the majority of KSI RTC’s in the West Midlands involving cyclists occur when a car has pulled out of a junction in front of a cyclist that is mid- junction because the car driver has failed to spot the cyclist.

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From the nearside…….

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or the offside drivers just are not looking out for cyclists at junctions

 

Birmingham city centre was the regions hotspot for such collisions, which, as this is where most daily commutes are to and from, and given the heavy traffic volumes, came as no surprise. Further analysis of all KSI RTC’s involving cyclists show that, in the majority of cases there are no environmental factors that have contributed to the collision. In most instances the weather conditions are fine with no winds nor are there any identified carriageway hazards or issues with the road surface. Further, there are regularly no identified special conditions at the collision site (e.g. roadworks, defective signage or markings). Lastly over half the cyclists involved in a KSI collision on the regions roads were commuting to or from work, so in the main we are dealing with experienced cyclists.

Anyone still awake after the number crunching? Well it’s onto the interesting bit….

Conclusions from the statistical analysis and what to do about it……

 

For those of us that cycle daily to work the results came as no surprise. Although the “close pass scenario” remains the greatest concern for the majority of cyclists or for those considering cycling the actual greatest threat we cyclists face on the roads of the West Midlands is the driver pulling out in front of or across a cyclist mid junction, either because they haven’t seen them or miss-judged the cyclists speed or path.

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Classic close pass at a pinch point, aka. driving without due care and attention.

What can be done, well we have two parties involved in this type of collision, analysis of the collisions shows that in such circumstances the blame would lie solely with the driver not the cyclist. This is not uncommon as most drivers are trained and habitually look for other vehicles when negotiating junctions and show a total disregard when it comes to looking for or being aware of vulnerable road users (analysis of KSI collisions involving motorcyclists and pedestrians would prove similar).

We could make use of social media, press releases etc. to tell motorists to “look out” for cyclists, but this has been ongoing with both cyclists and motorcyclists and although has some positive effect it doesn’t reach the target audience we need to engage, those unwilling to take on the message or dismissive of vulnerable road users altogether, which given the rise in KSI collisions involving vulnerable road users seems like the majority of motorists.

Our time and effort, we have quickly realised, is better spent enforcing the law and prosecuting, thus creating a scenario whereby should someone not give a cyclist the time and space necessary or fail to see them completely they should expect to be prosecuted. In other words the carrot goes out the window and in comes the stick. Why some might ask? Well if drivers expect to be prosecuted for committing offences they suddenly stop committing them, unsurprising correlation I know but it’s the truth. Once drivers become aware that an infringement involving a cyclist is one they should expect to be prosecuted for, they suddenly become more aware of them on the road and in turn start giving them the time and space they should lawfully have as an equal road user.  Cyclists suddenly occupy a drivers attention, they actively look out for them and so are less likely to miss them at junctions and contribute to our KSI statistics.

Any offence that would contribute to a driver failing to see a vulnerable road user needs to be enforced, and as has been considered of late, some say needs a greater penalty. Whether that be excess speed that doesn’t give the motorist time to see or react to the vulnerable road user, distraction offences such as mobile phone use, or drug and drink driving.

So drivers need to expect a zero tolerance approach for any offence involving a vulnerable road user, or an offence that could contribute to a collision involving a vulnerable road user. The only way to change driver behaviour and concentrate minds on looking out for vulnerable road users and change driving habits is through enforcement, and the resulting fear of being prosecuted. Now for those who will no doubt be spitting out their finest percolated roasted bean brew at this moment screaming “what about the cyclists !” well…….statistical analysis shows they aren’t to blame, innocent in the majority of KSI collisions it would be a waste of our time, and thus public time and money to concentrate on cyclist behaviour. The figures speak for themselves…….driver’s don’t let your prejudices get in the way of the truth…….

But for those cyclists who want a bit of advice……

Before we carry on, this next section isn’t victim blaming, having read the last several paragraphs you should all have no doubt as to where we think the responsibility lies for the majority of KSI collisions involving cyclist’s and vehicles on our regions roads. I have no doubt a few will be appalled that we offer some safety advice to cyclists on what to do and look out for on the approach to junctions but this isn’t your standard advice, it comes from our thousands of hours watching road user behaviour from an trained advanced road user perspective, even the doubters might learn something from the next section…….and if you’re prepared for the worst you can often avoid it.

Don’t look at the eyes….

Many will say “make eye contact, this ensures they have seen you”, absolute rubbish this, half the time they will be looking not at you but right through you. Ignore the eyes of the driver; watch the wheels of the vehicle instead. A vehicle won’t move without the wheels moving, and you will see the wheels move far before you realise the vehicle is moving thus giving you that split second extra that to react and hopefully avoid a collision.

A red light never stopped anything….

Goes for all road users this one, red lights don’t stop vehicles, they instruct road users to stop their vehicle, if the driver (or cyclist) misses the red light or chooses to ignore it, a miss-placed faith in the power of the red light might be your undoing. Always check the opposing traffic is slowing and intends to stop at a red light, the glance only takes a second, it could be a very valuable second well spent

Hi viz doesn’t mean highly visible and the positive “wobble”

Don’t think hi viz clothing will keep you seen, although hi viz has a place in some circumstances such as low light conditions, it is contrast that catches the attention of the driver who might pull out on you, that, and movements the human eye and brain are wired to detect. White and black all have their place in being seen, white is a particularly visible colour not often naturally occurring so stands out, ever wondered why traffic officers hats are white ? It’s not because we want to look like ice cream salesmen! Lateral movement on the road on the approach to a junction triggers all the receptors visually that drivers need to see, recognise and subsequently react to the cyclist on the road. In low light a flashing front light doesn’t hurt either. So moving out an extra 6 or 12 inches on the approach to a junction can go a long way to making you the centre of the waiting or approaching driver’s attention, as an object moving steadily towards you in a straight line can be missed, the object that is coming towards you with some sideways movement is more easily seen by the drivers whose attention we wish to occupy.

A New Dawn

Cycling is a fantastic thing, it’s benefits are well documented, traffic congestion is reduced, as is pollution, health and wellbeing are boosted for the participants and not forgetting the resultant benefits of less dependence on a stressed NHS. When it comes to playing our part in supporting cycling and cyclists it’s not a case of “why should we?” it’s a case of “why wouldn’t we?” Supporting cyclists and cycling is really a case of policing for the benefit of all, a prime case of policing for the greater good of the community.

Cyclists don’t cause us, as an organisation, problems, that’s because they aren’t causing our communities problems, they aren’t killing nearly 100 people on our regions roads as mechanically propelled vehicles currently do. Yes we do get complaints of the “nuisance” variety, pavement cycling, some anti-social behaviour (usually yobs on bikes rather than “cyclists”), red light running etc. but you get the idea, most peoples interpretation of “1st world problems” or the “modern day blues”, nothing that’s a priority for a force like our own in a modern day society. Bad cycling is an “irritant” to the wider community rather than a danger, and maybe an improvement in infrastructure and policing may alieve many of the reasons that cause a very small minority of cyclists to be an “irritant”

So what can we do to do our bit ?, to encourage along with our partnership agencies people onto bikes and get the personal and community benefits already discussed. Well as we already touched upon in the first part of this blog, people’s fear of the dangers of cycling is the largest barrier, particularly the close pass. The media plays a large part, every cycling tragedy is to the fore, not that they shouldn’t be, such incidents can be a force for change but there is very little to re-address the balance, to convince people that cycling is safe. We as a force must do our upmost to protect the vulnerable on our roads and convince them that if anyone does endanger them on the road the perpetrator will be dealt with. The flip side of this is of course that anyone endangering a vulnerable road user should expect to be identified and prosecuted; this is the key to policing the problem.

The way forward

Although we have had great success prosecuting using cycle camera evidence sent to us by cyclists, not all, even those running cameras on their daily journeys have the desire to start reporting offending drivers (as previously discussed here : Lights, Camera, Action !  ).

So we need to be proactive, and so in partnership with Birmingham City Council we have a new partnership scheme which will see a traffic officer riding the most vulnerable locations for cyclists looking to instantly act upon close passes, distracted driving and the like. The cycling traffic officer when passed too close will let the officer up the road know, who will in turn stop the motorist. Then the offender will be given a choice, prosecution or 15 minutes spent being educated as to the correct way to pass a cyclist.

It’s simple but effective, drivers are shown how far they should be from a cyclist, we have chosen the widely advocated 1.5mtr as our minimum but of course a much further distance will be needed in many circumstances depending on the vehicle type and speed. For instance if the opposite carriageway is available for an overtake and isn’t used in its entirety the driver will be pulled and shown why they should utilise all the available road room available to facilitate a safe overtake. A full sized replica road floor mat with various hazards positioned on it will give perspective and equip drivers with the knowledge needed to prevent further offences being committed.

Those who are committing any other offence as well as the “close pass” due care offence will be prosecuted for all offences, no immediate educational alternative for those who show such a low standard of driving.

Days without education

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Expect prosecution, not education for anything of this standard !

Following a period of education at a particular location if offences persist we will have “enforcement” only days where education isn’t an option for those committing close pass due care offences. Hopefully given the amount of publicity we anticipate this tactic will receive, most drivers should very quickly get the message and hopefully the enforcement only days should be few and far between!

We anticipate a change in driver behaviour as awareness of the tactic spreads, after all, every cyclist on the road ahead may well be a traffic officer on the operation, as our cyclists will not be liveried in any way, drivers will have no way of knowing !

RoSPA

For those who are reading this and think they need to make themselves or others (for example employee’s, friends or colleagues) more aware of how to share the road with cyclists in a way that will avoid prosecution, we recently teamed up with RoSPA and produced an interactive presentation which is free to download and is ideal. The presentation gives drivers examples of how to overtake cyclists, examples of what cyclists may do in certain situations to ensure their safety, and highlights blind spot awareness plus much more, and unlike anything that’s gone before it is filmed on live roads with live traffic, so those who have never cycled on a road get everything from a cyclists perspective. Well worth a look you’ll find it here : RoSPA Share the Road

Well that’s it for this blog, that’s where we are at, anyone from the media who would like more details of the new “Share the Road” scheme which proactively deals with close passes or attend a media launch day for the scheme in the coming week please contact Brigg Ford at our Corporate Communications Department, as for the rest of you, feel free to tweet us with any questions.

Until the next blog

Take care and safe cycling.

Cash Cows, Stealth Taxes and Revenue Raisers

Rolling out the Cash Cow

Sorry we’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front recently, to say we’ve been busy is an understatement. Projects in partnership with RoSPA concentrating on driver behaviour towards cyclists and preventing young driver fatalities on rural roads have taken up large amounts of our own time that we usually allocate to blog writing and other projects (for those who weren’t aware the blogs are written in officers’ own time, not while at work). Now those two RoSPA projects are completed and released on the RoSPA site, it gives us time once again to commence our keyboard bashing regards those matters that dominate our Twitter feed or have risen to the fore as community traffic related priorities. So expect a more regular flow of blogs and the odd special feature in the near future, but for now in the latest two blogs we shall discuss Cash Cows, Stealth Taxes and Revenue Raisers (aka Speed Checks), and of course last time we talked about our renewed efforts and tactics to tackle the Boy Racer problem (the Foolishly Fast and the Furiously dangerous). But as the latest TISPOL Speed Campaign Week draws to a close lets take a look at why speed checks remain a vital part of our daily work and dismiss a few of the “Urban Myths” that surround Speed Checks aka. Cash Cows, Stealth Taxes and Revenue Raisers.

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Even the hardest hitting of campaigns don’t register with selfish speeding drivers

 

Tending the CMPG and West Midlands Police Cash Cows… MOOOOOO

A little “tongue in cheek” obviously this one. Every time a speed check is conducted by ourselves and we tweet about it there are always one or two social media keyboard warriors that cry from their tin foil lined conspiracy bunkers “Milking the Cash Cow”, “ Fleecing the hard pressed motorist” , “No proper criminals to catch”, “Stealth Tax” What you must realise is that like most forms of husbandry, milking our speed check Cash Cows is hard work……just watch Country File, hard pressed in modern times Farming folk are….I am of course joking there is no such thing as the proverbial Cash Cow in any of the road traffic enforcement we carry out, as you will now see. In order to dispel the Cash Cow myth we must look at why, how and where we conduct speed checks. Now our speed checks involve our highly trained CMPG Road Policing officers being at the side of the road utilising a Pro Laser III device. We do not operate the camera safety vans, which are independent of our department. However these vans deploy on the same principles that I am about to outline so hopefully no further questions should be needed following this blog regards speed enforcement in the West Midlands region.

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Pro Laser III in use, simple, accurate, good kit

 Why do we need speed checks?

Speed kills, there is no doubting this. Whether as a singular factor or as an aggravating factor in combination with other judicious driving actions it is present in the majority of fatal and serious collisions we attend and subsequently investigate. It is actually present in the majority of all collisions. If you have been involved in a collision of any sort and reflect impartially on the circumstances that led to the inevitable collision, and factor in a slower speed for all parties, you will realise that a slower speed would have prevented or at least lessened the consequences of the collision. Speed checks won’t prevent all collisions, they will slow the majority of motorists at vulnerable locations however, and if you slow even just a few, due to our ever increasing traffic levels (more on this in a later blog) you will slow the majority. For those who think they are good enough drivers to travel above the speed the limit let us give you a blunt reality check. You are not. Why? Because everyone makes mistakes. There is no such thing as the perfect driver. Even as advanced drivers with months of specialist training under our belts we will make mistakes, such is the human condition. However unlike the majority we drive defensively, even when at speed, and never to the limit of our personal ability. We ensure we always have time and room available should something unexpected occur on the road around us, all this with the thought of the consequences of a mistake firmly embedded at the front of our minds at all times. As we see all too often the consequences of excess speed on a daily basis and the carnage it causes. Always remember that the mistake may not be yours that leads to a collision, but if you are driving in excess of the speed limit you take away the most vital factor that may lead to you avoiding or lessening a collision, and that is time to react. Whether that reaction is avoiding or simply slowing the impact speed of a collision, it is this that will save you or someone else’s life. When you also take into account that the main increases we are seeing in the those killed or seriously injured on our region’s roads are vulnerable road users, the elderly or child pedestrian, the cyclist or motorcyclist, and the young inexperienced driver, you can see how important that travelling at or below the speed limit is to the survival chances of these vulnerable groups of road users, should you or they make a mistake that leads to a collision.

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Why speed checks are needed, more vulnerable road users are being killed and seriously injured.

For those who need further convincing as to why we need to carry out speed enforcement and have dismissed our wise words as the rhetoric of “Government employed road enforcement stealth tax collectors” we suggest you speak to your local coroner, who presides over the inquests of hundreds of fatal collisions, or maybe have a look at BRAKE or Road Peace websites, or for those brave enough, seek out your local road death support group and speak to the bereaved, who live a life without those who have died due to speeding drivers. I guarantee those who are still overly paranoid, the “it’s all about me” selfish road users out there, that none of these people or organisations have hidden Cash Cow stealth tax raising intentions, much like us they exist to save lives. Of all the fatal four offences it is speed that kills the most, all be it usually in a deadly cocktail of one if not all of the other fatal offences. And finally on the “why?” factor. We have to do it because it’s a problem and a cause of community complaint that will never go away due to the overwhelming selfish nature of many drivers on our roads. As you will know if you are out there on a daily basis it’s fair to say the average standard of driving is at an all-time low as is the attitude of the majority of drivers we encounter. The “me, me, me” attitude that prevails in modern society really has no place on our roads. Unfortunately very little consideration is given to other road users or the consequences of inappropriate or offending personal road use, and so we have a never ending supply of drivers who endanger others and as a result occupy our precious finite time.

Where and when

This will help relieve the paranoia of the ‘Cash Cow Conspiracy’ brigade as we don’t carry out speed enforcement at locations or at times when it is easiest for ourselves to catch a high volume of speeding motorists; actually quite the opposite. Locations are chosen for a variety of reasons, none of which account for numbers of drivers who may be prosecuted. The first consideration is proximity to recent KSI (killed or seriously injured) collision locations where a major contributory factor to the collision was excess speed. Often we will do speed enforcement at the historic location of multiple KSI collisions. You will often see us on the A45 Small Heath Highway, A45 Coventry Road, A34 Stratford Road just meters away from floral tributes to the deceased, sadly taken from their loved ones by a speeding driver. The enforcement will take place at the time when most of the KSI collisions occur, which may mean rush hour or 2am in the morning – statistical analysis of collision figures tell us when we need to be in the right place at the right time. This is often not conducive to catching large numbers of offenders but is conducive to preventing further KSI collisions at a given location. Anyone who questions why we carry out enforcement at these locations really shouldn’t be driving.

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Despite officers being highly visible, many fail to notice a speedcheck and accelerate towards the check site !

We will carry out enforcement at vulnerable locations at peak use times, for example outside or near schools, in the locality of parks or children’s playgrounds, on the approach to pedestrian crossings. Again the logic of speed enforcement at such locations is obvious – we are protecting some of the most vulnerable in society from some of the most dangerous, protecting children from drivers who don’t have the sense to drive to the speed limit and with care at such locations, and again those whose question it really do not have the correct aptitude to drive on our roads. Lastly we will carry out enforcement where we get a large amount of complaints from the community regards speeding motorists. We police for the community and if it concerns them well then it concerns us. Such concerns and the resulting action of enforcement will often stop an inevitable tragedy that would occur if left unchecked. It is amazing though that when conducting checks at such locations it is always common that at least one or two reported motorists will utter “I was one of the people who complained” or even in one case “I’m the councillor who highlighted the problem”. This is typical of the speeding driver, and most offenders generally on our roads, they are very quick to admit there is a problem, but sometimes slow to realise they are a part of it.  

How

Now those who are still mumbling or yelling “It’s all about the money, money, money” let me tell you how we conduct a speed check at the locations and times as detailed above and further ease your troubled minds. If the road has a 40mph or 30mph limit and the road layout allows a safe stop of an offender to be conducted on foot then we will be standing at the roadside, speed gun in hand catching and reporting one at a time. Not all vehicles are checked, we only check those who obviously travelling in excess of the speed limit, if you read our Twitter updates you will see that results often refer to something along the lines of “several caught travelling at speeds from 40mph to 58 mph in a 30mph limit”. This gives you a good idea of the parameters we work to. We don’t target speeding drivers, we target dangerous drivers. For example let’s illustrate using a 30mph limit check, those travelling a few miles an hour over the limit will be ignored, those a little faster may get the customary slow down signal or wag of the Traffic officer’s finger, those who are a little faster will be stopped, their documentation and vehicle checked and verbally warned, your speed will have to be a good way over the 30mph limit to trouble our pens. Also consider that if someone is stopped at 39mph their speedo will be showing somewhere in the 40-42mph region as all manufactures calibrate in the region of +2-3mph. (Just compare your speedo reading to a GPS reading). We are never short of customers though and given the margin over the speed limit where pen is put to paper, those stopped are either intentional speeders or dangerously absent minded! It takes approximately 10-15 minutes to deal with an offender in this manner so even at the busiest of check sites where lots of offenders are participating in the check due to their dangerous speed an officer can only deal with four to five offenders maximum an hour. This is our average per officer for a check generally in the West Midlands.

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The ultimate enforcement !

Although this method is nowhere as efficient as a camera or speed van when it comes to catching speeders, it is ruthlessly efficient in other ways. As we check every vehicle and driver stopped it brings to our attention all manner of other offences both traffic and crime related, the majority of our arrests stem from routine traffic offence stops. Plus the sight of the “Black Rats” in action at the side of the road has the psychological impact we desire, those reported know exactly what has caused their pain, the standard of their driving, and for those who witness us reporting other drivers from their passing cars as they travel by they become suitably paranoid, expecting the check to be there again in the coming weeks. This of course slows traffic in our absence. Our approach is one of creating an atmosphere and culture where drivers should expect to be caught and prosecuted, this is the only way road offending can be successfully combated. Those who believe there’s a chance they might be caught generally don’t offend, it’s a simple logic but a true one. The reason that so many currently offend is the prevailing belief that they won’t be caught, trust us when we say this will change…. On faster roads where it is too dangerous to stop vehicles on foot we will utilise a patrol car to do the stopping. This brings the number of offenders dealt with an hour down to four to five with a double crewed car dealing, effectively halving our effectiveness. So as you will quickly realise with these numbers our “Sacred Cash Cow” won’t rectify the budget deficit anytime soon….it is however our most effective way of targeting and removing the most dangerous speeding offenders from our roads. If revenue generation was our aim we would just sit on overbridge on the M40 or Toll Road, finding ourselves having to report every other vehicle that passed, such is the level of offending at such locations, the revenue generated would be huge. Again the drivers would only have themselves to blame, after all a speeding fine is an “opt in tax for the poor of driving”, but we don’t as it would not impact on our KSI figures, which ultimately is the aim of our department, saving lives. There is no hiding in bushes or behind bins, we will always be draped in enough fluorescent yellow to tent a small village, white hats atop our heads and standing usually alongside a marked car. At night on darkened roads we will wear a red light for extra visibility or even have the flashing reds illuminated on our car. Those who don’t look far enough up the road to see us and are travelling at speed are our intended quarry, these are the most dangerous of drivers. We do not have to be visible at a check, it does not have to be signed or warned of. The law does however state that you as a driver must not exceed the speed limit. We like to be visible for health and safety reasons, some don’t even see us until the last minute when we are standing in the road instructing them to stop, not being visible is asking to become another casualty. As for those who fail to stop or deliberately drive at us, it just shows we are encountering and subsequently catching the right people. For those who think they should be warned of a speed check we are thinking of developing a new sign that reads “Speed Check in Progress, at any given time, on any given date on this road somewhere in the next 10 miles”. Let’s face it if you need a sign to urge you to be capable of looking down at your speedometer and then adjusting your right foot in the appropriate manner to maintain a safe and lawful speed then you really shouldn’t be driving. And for those who believe otherwise our officer manned checks don’t need signing.

But what about police cars…..

The next war cry of the tin foil hatted conspiracy spouting keyboard warriors who despise speed enforcement is “What about police cars, I always see them speeding, marked and unmarked cars without their lights and sirens on, one rule for us and one rule for them…” Well for a start police cars, as is the case with all emergency vehicles, have a lawful exemption. It is literally one rule for us and one rule for you,… as long as it is in the lawful execution of our duty. Now as you can imagine that covers so many scenarios it’s hard to know where to start but let’s just cover a couple of the common ones that we find ourselves engaging in on a daily basis. Firstly, the traffic car at speed without lights and sirens. Quite common this, especially when we are trying to make progress towards an offence location or offending vehicle without alerting the offender of our impending presence. Secondly the traffic car overtaking other cars at say 10 to 15mph over the limit, quite simply we are using our exemption to look at vehicles and drivers in order to spot offences. If we did the limit or just under we would stay with the same vehicles for mile after mile and be largely ineffective. If we slowed to let potential offenders pass we are spotted and offenders hang back avoiding detection. By using our exemption we can approach fresh vehicles and potential offenders from behind giving ourselves and our ANPR capability and continuous supply of new opportunities to make the roads safer. Just remember that whenever a police driver uses an exemption to break the speed limit, or any other road traffic law, we must justify it. Traffic cars have continuously recording video and audio, increasingly our fleet are being fitted with data recorders, we are the most scrutinised drivers on the roads as we should be.  

Getting caught, excuses, what if’s, stupid questions and why you’ve only got yourself to blame

If caught there are three disposals for your offence. Firstly if you are at the eligible you may be offered a speed awareness course, you and your offending speed must fit the criteria (easily found via a Google search). If you don’t fit the speed awareness course criteria due to your recorded speed or driving history then its either a conditional offer of three points and a fine (again eligibility criteria easily found online), if your speed is such that you don’t meet the conditional offer criteria or you have reached the point of a potential disqualification through totting up then it’s a day out at court I’m afraid. Do courses work some ask? Well yes in the majority of cases they do, they certainly bring a realisation to those who have forgotten or simply never knew the threat they carry to innocent road users through their intentional or unintentional offending. A few last words of advice if you are caught speeding. Yes the gun is always calibrated and we are properly trained, we don’t like wasting our time…. No we haven’t got better things to do as dangerous speeding drivers are real criminals, especially as they could potentially kill and injure innocent members of the public Never say “I thought it was a 40” or the like, it just provides further proof of your poor standard of driving. There are countless places to go to the toilet. The money generated does not go to our Christmas Party fund, it goes to central government If you utter the words “It’s an emergency” just ask yourself why you haven’t called the emergency services, probably because it’s not an emergency. Speed is no way to avoid a potential hazard, so don’t say you were speeding to avoid another car or overtake a poor driver, if you remove speed out of an hazardous road situation it inevitably resolves itself, adding speed only intensifies a hazardous situation, and further shows poor decision making and a poor standard of driving, such an excuse can only aggravate not mitigate an offence, especially at court. Remember, as painful as it is, if caught you only have yourself to blame, no one makes you speed, and for those who still are not convinced that it’s not all about the money, money, money (all credit due to Jessie J), then let’s just agree to disagree, and settle with speed checks being a voluntary tax on dangerously poor drivers, I don’t think anyone capable of sensible thought could disagree with that.  

Safe journeys all, (oh and slow down)

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Someone stole a 40 sign and placed it in a 30 limit in order to try and avoid a speeding sign ! You can go to prison for this sort of thing, the lengths drivers will go

The Foolishly Fast and the Furiously Dangerous, Operation Hercules tackling illegal street racing

 

This has been an issue for so many years, certainly for the 17 + years I’ve been policing the West Midlands. The problem has grown and grown, fuelled by a now social media powered generation eager for cheap thrills without consideration for the consequences of their own actions. Pretty representative of the country as a whole some might say. Despite numerous warnings and wise words given, all falling on deaf ears unwilling to heed good advice, we find ourselves now in a situation where the car cruising scene and the anti-social behaviour problems and illegal street racing it brings with it, regularly top our communities list of concerns, and as a result ours.

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On the hunt, they are not discreet and therefore easy to find.

The Bare Truth

Lots of misconceptions about the car cruising scene, so here is what goes on weekly on the streets of the West Midlands. Social media arranged meets at suitable locations where racing can take place bring offenders from all over the region, and sometimes further afield, we having dealt with drivers who have driven over 100 miles to attend and partake in an illegal pastime that affects the quality of life of thousands in midland communities.

A stretch of dual carriageway with an island at either end with room for onlookers to view and park adjacent and close to the racing is preferred. Not all attend to race, some attend just to watch, but both are just as guilty, after all those who do race just crave attention, no audience would mean no racing and no anti-social behaviour, you get the idea. If you turn up to watch you are part of the problem, expect to be treated as such.

Those who attend will say they gather just to admire the machinery, well this happens every weekend with classic car enthusiasts, modified car enthusiasts, motorcyclists etc., but they do it at a place where they have had permission and without affecting anyone else, so in these circumstances there are no problems. But when car cruisers meet at a location they have no permission to gather at, and then offences and disruption start taking place, we get calls that can total hundreds a month. We get collisions, we get petrified innocent road users, and local communities and businesses whose lives are affected and who feel under siege every time they gather.

Although the tag “boy racer” is a favoured term of the majority  for the offenders who attend, many are older, many are female, some with families, good jobs, responsibilities and normal lifestyles away from this offending, that they portray as a hobby or interest. The trouble is when they attend they quickly forget their responsibility to the wider community, a selfish desire to get cheap adrenaline fuelled kicks takes priority over everyone else’s safety and wellbeing, and as such the response to a problem we have to put an end to is harsh, as you will see.

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Heartlands Parkway, the effect of excess speed on the public road

 

The time for talking is done

 

As we have previously mentioned, this is a historic ongoing problem for the communities and innocent road users who become victims of these offending car cruisers and street racers. For years we have tried to reason with the offenders, tried to make them see sense, point them in the direction of legal alternatives to their offending in the shape of track days, legally organised insured meets at showgrounds or airfields, but alas, they are not interested, they want cheap kicks at the expense of the greater law abiding public.

Despite our continued warnings of the long term implications resulting from an interaction with ourselves, if you’re found offending in any way at or around a car cruising meet, there appears to be an abundant supply of drivers who wish to have their driving and life chances curtailed by conviction and the associations with car cruising and street racing. So it really is a case of “You’ve made your bed…time to lie in it.”

 

A new approach

Previously we were reactive when it came to the problem. The calls would come in, a marked unit, local, traffic or CMPG would turn up, on went the flashy lights and the problem slipped away in convoy to harass and intimidate another neighbourhood. The problem was temporarily solved but the next day, next week it re-appeared. There were no consequences to the offending. Now since the policing of the roads has fallen under the CPMG “umbrella” with its regional co-ordination and intelligence capabilities we have the resources to go on the offensive, literally 24/7 against the car cruising and street racing offenders.

Firstly we had the intelligence gathering phase, most offending is arranged via social media so we took a great interest in what was happening regards organisation and the main players. Then we gathered a list of all those that attended the meets and locations where offences were taking place. This has resulted in a data base of nearly 600 registration numbers that will automatically alert on any of our ANPR systems, meaning we can track, tackle and take off the road anyone who attends any of the meets all of the time. So you could attend a meet, be part of the problem at the weekend, but it won’t be until you are driving to work, taking your mom shopping, taking the kids to school that we stop you, anywhere anytime we will make you accountable for your actions.

We now go out looking for offenders proactively, this is the current phase, we suddenly appear in unmarked cars in the middle of their racing, the video footage is damning in court, as is footage from a helicopter or spotter at the side of the road. That person filming you racing, trialling or doing a burnout etc. with their phone, could well be a plain clothes officer.

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A45 Small Heath Highway, Car Cruised straight into a lampost

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Good job there wasn’t a passenger !

Feeling paranoid? You should be.

Get caught racing or trailing on the public highway and the consequences are simple, once we have you stopped you will be reported for racing on the highway, driving without due care or dangerous driving and also driving with no insurance. No insurance ?, yes no insurance, there isn’t an insurance policy in existence that covers you for illegal street racing or trailing – just check your policy or ask any underwriter. Insurers are the most risk adverse people in existence so as you can imagine, Illegal street racing, trailing and just being in the locality is a massive no-no. So as well as a court appearance if you’re caught in the act of racing or trailing we will seize your vehicle under S165 RTA as it was being driven outside the limitations of its cover whilst you were committing the other offences. Oh and we’ll chuck in a S59 warning just for good measure also, we never miss an opportunity.

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Where’s the airbag ?

As the onlookers gather we look at them for modified vehicles with offences, those with modifications that make them dangerous and unroadworthy, modifications that clearly haven’t been notified to the driver’s insurer. If you have to lie to your insurer to get insurance, you have no insurance. A false statement to obtain insurance is a serious offence in itself, but it leaves you without cover and as a result walking home.  A replacement racing steering wheel without an airbag, a lowered vehicle with wheels that won’t turn to full lock without rubbing, race seats, harnesses, body kits all mods that render your vehicles NCAP safety rating useless, insurers don’t like modifications especially if you’re under 25 years old. Any performance enhancing modifications are always a certain seizure without a specialist policy from a specialist insurer. After all if your production car isn’t fast enough, or stops well enough when it leaves the factory it says a lot about you, how you want to drive and your subsequent risk to an insurer. We have discussed at length with technical motor insurer underwriters what they will cover and won’t cover and under what circumstances. An illegal unroadworthy vehicle due to modifications is an uninsurable vehicle, and the easiest one to spot is driver’s window tints, any illegal tint to a driver’s window makes it uninsurable, insurers don’t cover vehicles that you have modified to be in a dangerous condition.  And yes we will even notify your insurer of undeclared replacement aftermarket exhausts, stereos, body stripes/stickers, after market alloys etc., it really is zero tolerance if you give us cause. If you are found racing, watching the racing, taking part in a gathering that has caused calls regards anti-social behaviour etc. have no doubt, we will deal with you in the harshest way the law will allow, don’t say we didn’t warn you all, we’ve been asking nicely for years.

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Hmmm that didn’t come out the factory like that

The consequences

Get caught racing or trialling and convicted at court you’ll be lucky to walk out with your licence. If you are caught where an injunction is in place then the going rate is 5-6 months in prison if you have no previous convictions, yes that’s right, first ever offence gets you prison under these circumstances. The Dudley injunction has proved especially productive regarding sending illegal street racers to prison, they were warned ……  Many other regions are copying Dudley’s approach and are seeking similar injunctions, are your 30 seconds of racing really worth prison? Gosh your family would be proud…..

Like we said, we will seize your car as no policy insures you to race or trial on a public road. When you come to get it back our specialist insurance officers at Operation Piranha will call your insurer and inform them of your actions, if your car is leased or financed they will also call them as well, after all they have a vested interest in your car and how it’s driven, finance agreements and lease agreements have been cancelled as a result of our calls, bye bye car, bye bye credit rating, bye bye your chances of getting affordable insurance for the next 10 years. And once you’re convicted, the racing on the public highway, no insurance and due care/dangerous driving convictions leave you next to uninsurable unless you have the bank balance of a Premier League Footballer. A high price to pay for 30 seconds of showing off, don’t you think…….

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Insured as a standard Celica

Undeclared modifications, false addresses, false ages, undeclared convictions regarding your insurance will really complicate your life and driving. Out of office hours we will have to seize your car if it’s obvious you’ve given a false statement to obtain insurance. If your car has dangerous modifications that make it unroadworthy, it is uninsurable so a seizure is inevitable, you obviously haven’t told them as insurers don’t insure vehicles that have been intentionally modified to a  dangerous condition. Get stopped during office hours, and thanks to our ANPR database of those who attend car cruising events these drivers are easy to target now, and we will just phone the MIB (Motor Insurers Database) and they will call an underwriter at your insurer and see if firstly you have declared all relevant modifications, convictions, if your address and occupation are correct etc. etc. Anything undeclared or falsified usually results in a policy being voided from inception, so you walk and have a no insurance and dangerous condition prosecution to look forward to.

If your policy isn’t voided from inception you will have your policy cancelled upon collection of your vehicle with notice, meaning usually you will get your vehicle back but the insurer will cancel your policy due to your false statement.

 

99 % of all of our Operation Hercules seizures have resulted in voided or cancelled policies, the insurers are fully supportive of the stance we take regarding car cruising, illegal street racing and lying to get insurance, again you have been warned. A cancelled or voided policy is something you carry for a long long time and can be more impactive than a no insurance conviction. After all every time you apply for insurance of any kind, it might be travel, home life, mortgage etc. they always ask “Have you ever had a policy cancelled or voided?” As you see your little car cruising adventure or street race can have far reaching consequences. Don’t believe us just read on…..

Behold the truth is told… a couple of case studies

Let’s start with the undeclared modifications. A Honda Civic is spotted on a routine speed check mid-afternoon in leafy Solihull. The car is being driven in a normal manner, not at meet, but it is quite clearly heavily modified and is one of our target vehicles, as you can see from the pictures. Modifications include body kit, spoiler, weight reduction, racing steering wheel (minus airbag), aftermarket alloys, performance air filter and manifold etc. etc. The pictures speak for themselves. The vehicle was insured with a run of the mill high street insurer as a standard production Civic, the driver, being 20 years old knowing full well that disclosure of the modifications would prevent him being insured unless he sought out a specialist insurer and policy costing him a great deal more.

A quick call to his insurer on our behalf by the Motor Insurers Bureau and the modifications are duly disclosed. The insurer instantly refuses to cover the vehicle stating they would not have insured him given just one of the countless modifications due to his age. The car was seized as it was being driven with no insurance, the driver reported for driving with no insurance and driving a motor vehicle in a dangerous condition, with an altered exhaust/silencer etc. etc. By the time he found a specialist policy to insure the vehicle with all the modifications declared, the recovery/storage fees had amassed to £345. Then there are the minimum 6 points on his licence for the offences committed and fines and costs at court. The car is only worth a maximum of £1500, a painful lesson in why you shouldn’t lie to obtain insurance. But more importantly the original insurer will share the offender’s details with other insurers to warn them of his previous capacity to make false statements. Having a cancelled or voided policy because of a false statement will impact on your life in far many more ways than the resulting no insurance conviction, insurers don’t like high risk and those who fail to disclose true details upon incepting a policy, of any kind. And let’s not forget if the offence of making a false statement to obtain insurance, that’s a conviction disclosable in a great many circumstances, talk about limiting your life chances.

Now an example of one who has been caught racing/trialling. It’s a usual Sunday night on Nechells Parkway in Birmingham, approximately 80 vehicles have gathered to race, drive dangerously, and watch the clowns at play. We’ve tracked the offending vehicles via ANPR and arrive 2 minutes after them, just as we enter the fray in an unmarked car getting great footage as 5 cars race on their makeshift Scalextric type oval, we pick the rear vehicle who is nearly on two wheels, tyres screeching to their grip limit as the driver tries to maintain contact with the bunch in front. He has his brand new Fiesta ST on the limit. He’s clearly racing, the driving is competitive, we close in and the stop is put on the Fiesta, the world suddenly drops out of the 19 year old driver’s life. In an instant he realises that as a new driver he is only allowed 6 points before a licence revocation. How’s he going to get to work, how will he ever get insured again, but it gets worse. As he’s reported  for racing, a no insurance offence goes hand in hand, there isn’t an insurance company in the land that will cover you for illegal street racing, it’s quite clearly listed as a limitation to cover on policies. As the vehicle is uninsured for the purpose it is being used for, racing, it is duly seized. On trying to recover the vehicle the finance company is informed and they cancel the agreement. The insurer notes the impending charges for racing, due care, and no insurance, they authorise release of the vehicle and honour the policy under “normal” use until conviction, which will see a cancellation of the policy, insurers don’t like risk, especially drivers who engage in high risk offending.

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The wheels really come off this time !

 

And for those who have declared everything and are fully legal insurance wise, and are not racing trialling or being anti-social but have just turned up to “make up the numbers” we will always fall back to our “bread and butter” traffic skills, an altered exhaust or silencer will cost you £100 fine, number plate offences the same, lighting faults £50 an offence, the list is endless, be part of the problem and expect to be treated in a zero tolerance fashion. And if you read the details of the injunctions being granted to prevent cruising, your behaviour can cause a breach of the injunction far more easily than the manner of your driving.

The extreme consequences of the car cruising scene and illegal street racing has seen fatal collisions, either going to, at, or coming from illegal events. This combined with the high priority to our community that the offences associated with the car cruising scene now have, mean that it really is no more smiley faced policing, the “Black Rats” will come after you at every opportunity whenever you are on the road. Don’t want to be one of our targets? Don’t want to be on the Operation Hercules ANPR hotlist, then don’t attend illegal car cruising or street racing events in our region, it really is that simple.

 

Safe Journeys all.

“Manners Please”

“Manners don’t cost anything” my dear departed mother used to say, all too often. But she was of course right as usual. But not having them on the road can cost you dearly, especially around one of us (or anyone using a road going camera minded to report your indiscretion!).
Why should you need manners on our roads you might ask, given the somewhat unruly, if not dam right rude demeanour of the majority of road users, after all it’s a “Dog eat dog” world out there on our road network right? Well you couldn’t be more wrong, because good manners are the by-product of a good road user. And the dog with the best manners is “Top Dog”. Those with good road manners rise above the “rabble”; their good patient nature gives their driving, riding and even walking a touch of class, and the acknowledgement of others good road manners is just the icing on the cake. But more importantly, good road manners in the long run will keep you out of trouble with ourselves, largely free of negative road experiences, and most importantly happy and stress free, on, as ACDC famously sang our “Highways to hell”. The very fact there is a “Highway to hell” and only a “Stairway to Heaven” says a lot about supply and demand when it comes to the way we live our lives, and use our roads, read on for absolution……..

Where have all the good guys(and gals) gone ?

It’s a sad reflection of modern life that upon the majority of drivers and riders getting on the road they become immune to the connection they should have to those sharing the road with them. Take that protective bubble called a motor vehicle from around them and they wouldn’t dare behave the way they do when in command of a ton plus of potentially killing metal and plastic. Like all manners, the best are learnt at home when you are young, I remember my dad saying “If someone waits for you or lets you out always say thankyou”, that thankyou being the customary raise of the hand or nod of the head if on a bike. But alas even these minor efforts are too much for the selfish and ignorant on our roads. Although a minor indiscretion like failing to thank the driver who gives way or impedes their own progress to enhance yours, isn’t something that will find you falling foul of the law, here for the uninitiated or plain ignorant is a list of breaches of road etiquette that could lead to you being prosecuted.

How to be a Knight of the Road

So here we go with a list of do’s and don’ts of road going etiquette, you will notice that most of the don’ts are actually direct contraventions of the great book that is the Road Traffic Act but alas the uneducated, unread or just plain lazy do need reminding so please share and spread the good word of the Road Traffic Act, shining a light where darkness prevails……Amen.

The rule of give way

Obstruction on your side of the road? Someone coming the other way ? Then wait ! Do not pass the obstruction, whether it be the like of a parked car or cyclist, don’t pass it until the opposite side of the carriageway is free to use. Do not hit the imaginary thin button and squeeze through, not only is it rude it is also driving without due care and attention. What if that parked car suddenly had a door opened, what if the cyclist had to avoid a pot hole? The consequences of an ill-mannered few seconds could, and all too often have, ended in a tragic collision, be patient, wait your turn, show the way to the uninitiated, you know it makes sense.

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Something coming the other way whilst overtaking, best hit the “thin” button!, Classic due care offence.

And if the person coming the other way is also a “Knight or Lady of the road” and rewards your etiquette with a raise of the hand or nod of the head, well then the circle is complete and positive road going karma abounds. Perfection…….
If you don’t wait and I’m coming in the opposite direction uncommitted then have a good long hard look in your mirrors because chances are that instant karma will be turning in the road to put you on the path to educational righteousness via a report for driving without due care and attention. It happens more than you think and you’ll be amazed what we find when we inspect your vehicle, insurance and driver history. Can of worms opened……

 

Indicators, they don’t fit them for fun you know……

It would seem there are some drivers who have no idea what the stalk on the steering column with the directional arrows does, they probably think it’s a remote for the in car sat nav. Traffic islands see the worst of the indiscretions, no signals of intent, no breakaway/exit signal, these people obviously think that we have a telepathic link that enables us to know what their intent is. Not only is it just plain rude not to signal it is also careless and inconsiderate driving, and as with all these offences, if you have the bare faced cheek to adversely affect our progress by not signalling as the other of our Holy books, The High Way Code, instructs, expect to be stopped and again set on the road to righteousness by being reported for your inconsiderate driving and anything else we find wrong with you or your vehicle.

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Ahh, the bulb is there, the Indicator Fairies haven’t taken it away !

 

Banging tune, keep it to yourself though……

So you’re sitting at the lights, minding your own business, just listening to the ambient continuous drone of the rush hour drum, and then you actually feel it before you hear it. The bass shakes your backside like the T Rex from Jurassic Park and then as you look in the mirror you see the culprit. Windows up or down, it makes no difference, the maxed out stereo booms out their favourite tune, seeking the attention they so dearly crave. Unfortunately the only attention they will get is from an emergency service vehicle as it goes over the top of them, as they have failed to hear the sirens. The least you’ll get is a fine for excessive noise, more likely reported for due care, especially if your tune leaves you unable to hear our sirens. If the volume of your radio leaves me unable to hear mine clearly, then expect an interaction with ourselves that won’t centre on how we appreciate you letting us listen to your favourite tune, no matter if we like it or not.

Not overtaking, then surely lane one is your calling….. heed it heathen!

There’s nothing more inconsiderate than occupying lane 2 or three when the nearside lanes are clear. On duel carriageways we have a little game where we guess how many miles down the road the junction on the right is that they may take. You can use lane one, that right hand turn and lane two you will access it by won’t disappear if you travel to it in lane one you know. And for those who feel more comfortable in lane two, guess what, lane one is warm and cuddly too, and just easy to drive in. Lanes two and three on motorways and duel carriageways are for overtaking only, if you’re not overtaking then move to the nearside please. Anything else is driving without due care and remember “Manners cost nothing”.

Do you really want to climb into my boot?

Tailgating isn’t just rude playground style bullying; it is one of the most dangerous things you can do in a motor vehicle. It all too often results inadvertently from our previous breach of motoring etiquette, the aversion of another road user to travelling in a clear lane one. But the age old adage of “two wrongs don’t make a right” could not be more correct. Just occasionally someone takes it upon themselves to tailgate one of our unmarked cars, flashing their headlights like an impatient bull on the charge, the resulting instant karma is one of the most satisfying things in my role, I don’t even try to hide my beaming grin of delight as yet another substandard driver comes to me rather me having to seek them out, and provides all the evidence needed for a prosecution. There is no defence for driving too close to the roaduser in-front, so don’t do it, remember your manners.
Undertaking, it’s just queue jumping in a car really isn’t it
You wouldn’t queue jump at a theme park or supermarket, so why do it on a road, surely everyone deserves the same respect, it’s just a different queue isn’t it, or does all those metal boxes change the perception and behaviour as a result ? Undertaking constitutes driving without due care and attention per say unless you are passing slow moving or stationary traffic, but where it really gets rude is when a bus lane is utilised to commit the offence. You know the scenario, its rush hour, everyone else is in lane two queued bumper to bumper as the nearside bus lane is in operation. You keep a steady watch in your nearside mirror as you know that sooner rather than later some uncouth driver will try their luck up the inside to get to the front. You can feel the “ripple” of angst rush through the waiting traffic and drivers as they accelerate past in the clear bus lane. Rest assured, cameras dominate Birmingham’s bus lanes so few get away with it in the city centre, and as for the outlying arterial routes, if we see it they will find it the most expensive saving of two minutes they have ever taken on.

Foggy is it? Only in your head in would seem……….

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Retina Burners, to be used in visibility of 100m or less only !

There’s nothing worse than have your retina’s burnt out by someone’s fog lights, especially if they are only illuminated because the driver is under the delusion that it makes their chosen chariot look cool. This can usually be identified by the accompanying lack of dipped beam headlights; their side (or position lamps to give them their correct title) however are usually illuminated. Fog lights dazzle, they stop oncoming road users from seeing ahead and thus cause danger! If we stop you and you utter “ I wasn’t aware they were on” and there’s a clear warning light illuminated on the dash, well then that’s a clear due care and attention, not paying attention to your vehicle’s warning lights. Otherwise your lack of driving etiquette will cost you the price of a good meal with a bottle of house red. When do you use your fog lights? well the clues in the name really isn’t it…..
I’ve covered a few of the most common abhorrent road going in discrepancies but there are more we know, if there some you wish to share with us then please utilise our twitter feed to share them.
We concentrate on the fatal 4 when on patrol; this is because these offences of not wearing a seatbelt, mobile phone use, speeding and drink/drug driving are the offences that impact most significantly on our killed and seriously injured figures. But rest assured, when we come across any of the offences on patrol I have discussed today and we are uncommitted, then we will deal with them and teach the offender a lesson in road going manners.
Until next time, safe journeys all.

Can You Hear Me At The Back ?

The Headphone Headache

Oh dear, here we go again, this may ruffle a few social media feathers but those who follow us on Twitter and read our blogs in full will know that we do and say everything for the right reasons, we don’t expect everyone to agree, infact we’re happy that some don’t, just read and then constructively try to save life and limb on our roads as we do. So let’s jump right in at the deep end as usual, and tell vulnerable road users, not just cyclists, just why they leave themselves at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to being safe on the road if you wear headphones.” Victim blaming you are” I hear you say in a Yoda like fashion as all the Jedi Masters of Social Media Road Safety all utter. Well no, hopefully the wise can see past our uniform and see that from our investigative experience we are just providing advice that will prevent you becoming a casualty. Plus remember cyclist vs cyclist, and cyclist vs pedestrian collisions are an unfortunate by product of increased cycling on our roads, headphone use can be a cause of some collisions, whether that be use by a cyclist, pedestrian or motorist. And as cyclists surely we have a moral duty to set an example to motorists. So as usual, grab yourself a coffee, a piece of calorific mood enhancer (cake to the uninitiated), and read on…..

A few ground rules first

Before reading on please bear in mind the following which are the usual criticisms thrown at any advice given that suggests wearing headphones will impair your safety on the road.

“Driver’ stereo’s, don’t have a go at them do you”, Well yes we do actually. Yes drivers sometimes impair their own driving ability by having a stereo to loud or by wearing headphones themselves. If we come across a driver with music so loud or using headphones so it prevents them from hearing an emergency siren or warning horn then we will deal with them for driving without due care and attention or the offence of excessive noise.

“The hearing impaired, surely headphone use is exactly the same”. Well no, you see they counter any deficiencies they have with their hearing with enhanced use of their other senses. They are usually also very acutely aware of vibrations. Their road use as a result is usually far better than those with full hearing. Those using headphones display none of the qualities we have just mentioned that the hearing impaired have. On one of our last Safer Cycling events at the Coventry Sky Ride we had an interesting conversation with four profoundly deaf cyclists whilst they completed our questionnaires. One of the questions we ask is what do you think we could do to improve cyclist safety. They all answered “deter headphone use amongst cyclists”, they really couldn’t understand why anyone would deprive themselves of such a fundamental advantage when it comes to staying safe on our roads, and advantage they were deprived of and knew all too well the problems it can cause.

“It’s commonplace, everyone’s doing it so it can’t be that bad” All of us that cycle on CMPG Roads Policing has ridden with them on! Yes, total shocker I know but at some point all of us on the Safer Cycling Team have cycled with headphones on playing deafening music. A lot of the advice about to be given is as a result of near misses and experiences we have had whilst wearing headphones and cycling or walking as a pedestrian.

Right having covered a few of the common counter arguments onwards we go…

Headphones, do theyhave any place in cycling on the roads ?

Headphones, do theyhave any place in cycling on the roads ?

 

No-one has eyes in the back of their head

Your ears give you a picture as to what is happening behind you. We react all the time to noises, take the ability to hear and react to noises caused by occurrences outside the periphery of your vision and you are at a distinct disadvantage.

Even those who use some sort of mirror lose out. Cycling mirrors exist, but they are only any good whilst you are looking at them. A mirror will not give you an audible warning of a hazard approaching from any direction. You see with a little experience and perception what you hear can put you at a distinct advantage when it comes to being safe on the road.

The noise of an approaching vehicle can tell you so much about the driver’s intent. Engine noise for a start, on hearing a vehicle approach from behind you will inevitably start to focus your attention on it. An increase in rev’s as the driver changes down a gear tells a lot about their intent. A change down in gear shows that the driver has seen you and the selection of a more responsive gear at higher rev’s may indicate that a purposeful planned pass will follow. Or it may indicate an intention to enter a nearby junction where a slower speed is needed. These are vital little clues as to the vehicle’s intention, from wherever it is approaching from, that you can build into your own plan.

A vehicle approaching from behind will also give away its driver’s intent by other noises. The sound of cats eyes being depressed as the vehicle behind prepares to overtake, will give a good indication of the vehicle’s intended road position during an overtake and the also the regularity of the noise will give away its speed, and together with engine noise, give an indication of acceleration or deceleration.

I once started to ride home in darkness with headphones on, in the thinking that all the things that I have just mentioned I could do without as the approaching vehicle’s lights would more than compensate as to driver intent and could be incorporated into my riding plan instead. After being passed in a matter of a few journeys by vehicles without lights on I quickly realised that my logic was misplaced and the headphones were left well and truly in the “been there done that didn’t like it pile”. Everyone else on our team has had similar experiences with headphone use, please learn from them.

Headphone use means you will miss a shouted warning, the sound of a horn, the emergency sirens, the screech of the overworked tyres belonging to the overconfident aggressive driver, the excited squeal of children playing near the road, the barking dog attached to the extending lead about to become a tripwire on the shared path you are transcending, so much will be missed that you need to recognise and incorporate into your cycling to keep you and others safe.

One last point about headphone use and this comes from my experiences of sharing the road with other cyclists and pedestrians. I don’t have a bell on any of my bikes, so when passing another cyclist or pedestrian I will shout something along the lines of “passing right” to let them know I will be passing in close proximity. You can probably guess what comes next, don’t expect shoulder checks from poor road users, and expect them to be wearing headphones and to be totally clueless as to your presence and intentions.

 

The Future is bright; the Future is ……well yours to decide!

We’ve mentioned it a few times before, on Twitter and to those that attend our events, but for those who don’t know this is how we on CMPG Roads Policing now split our efforts when it comes to dealing with issues around cyclists and cycling.. 20% of our time is spent on educating and changing cyclist’s attitudes and behaviour. The remaining 80% we spend on driver behaviour, education and equipping those without the skills to lookout for, recognise and safely deal with the ever increasing very welcome but very vulnerable road users we find on our regions roads. We go out actively seeking to witness poor driving, hunting those compromising vulnerable road users safety and act upon it. Plain cars and officers spotting in plain clothes will be on popular commuting routes proactively seeking to deal with those endangering themselves and more importantly vulnerable road users. But there needs to be a balance, for every ying there must be a yang, for the persecuted motorist will shout from the front pages of the motoring favouring press “What about those demon cyclists, those who endanger my fragile happiness on my daily commute with their incessant law breaking, riding on the pavement, without lights or running red lights”. Well although our cyclists are not killing 80 to 90 people on our regions roads, which is what poor driver behaviour currently accounts for in the West Midlands Region, the law after all is the law and we must enforce it to cater for the needs of all those we serve. So we come to the somewhat “prickly” subject of tackling cyclists who break the law. You notice I have said “Tackling” rather than “Prosecute” because as with all our efforts at CMPG we look to educate and change road user behaviour for the better in the first instance where possible rather than prosecute. So when we find a cyclist committing an infringement which needs tackling, we will always offer an alternative to the usual fine where possible, whether that’s as simple as buying a set of lights or attending a free Bike Right course in order to avoid the inevitable fine, but I’m sure you’ll all agree, it’s better to solve a problem by creating another preacher to spread the gospel of the good road user rather than chip away at the national debt.

cycling on thwe pavement piccy for blog

Cycling on the pavement, a mere nuisance or a dangerous offence that should be tackled ?

Anyway, this leads us onto what should we be dealing with cyclists for. This is where you come in, what offences do you as cyclists think fellow cyclists should be dealt with for, where should we concentrate our efforts to have the greatest impact. On the 11th November 2015 we will have an open forum on the subject at the West Midlands Cycling Forum, from which we will pick the areas on which we concentrate. Can’t make the meeting? Let us know your views via our Twitter account using the #SaferCycling tag, we value them and all will be taken into account. This is your chance to shape the future of road safety in the West Midlands, don’t miss out.

Enjoy your coffee and cake?, Good best go and burn it off, safe riding all.

 

Until the next time safe journeys all.