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Op ClosePass Evolution

#OpClosePass ……..Evolution……….

 

……….and the continuing adventures of the West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team

 

As I write this it’s close to freezing outside, yet its midday…..we are it would seem trapped in a bit of a never ending winter at the moment, and given the need for something warming this particular blog should be “digested” with something hearty and wholesome such as a sticky toffee pudding or thick apple pie with traditional custard, and maybe a small glass of red to accompany. In the background the sounds of Air – Ce Matin La or maybe Goldfrapp – Caravan Girl should help bring about images of a warming spring day, something we are all in need of at the moment. So with your chosen calorific mood enhancer ready to consume, your chosen tipple at hand and a your favourite spring inspiring tune resonating in the background read on and see where we are taking our constantly evolving efforts to create a safer environment for all on the roads of the West Midlands Police region in the coming year.

Two years gone…..

It doesn’t seem like it’s been two years since PC Mark Hodson and PC Steve Hudson (aka #HodsonandHudson) started the #OpClosePass concept. Both already having a policing history of protecting the most vulnerable on the road in the West Midlands Police region the #OpClosePass project became the first of several innovative bespoke evidence based policing operations that now dominate the day to day activities of the West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team (#WMPRHRT).

Having already spent the previous three years experimenting with 3rd party reported video prosecutions, at the same time as the inception of #OpClosePass, two years ago, both officers also took it upon themselves to extensively test the 3rd party video evidenced prosecution concept on a basis that could be used to bring about wholesale driver behavioural change. Over 350 successful prosecutions later the work stream, that most said could never be done, just like many said #OpClosePass could never be done, now sits with the West Midlands Police Traffic Process Office. They are taking it to even greater levels that should see 3rd party reported prosecuted offences become an integral part of our plans to create a safer road going environment for all the residents of the West Midlands region.

That’s the key to how we work here on the #WMPRHRT, we recognise that innovative, evidence based policing is the key to securing the safety of people on our roads. The phrases “You can’t do that” or “that will never work” have become to key test of any developing concept to the team, you see we recognise that most previous efforts of policing have failed to change wholesale driver behaviour and now see that unless a particular policing activity addresses the greatest threat of harm on the road, which for the unaware is driver behaviour, then that policing activity is just a waste of our ever valuable time. When we come up with a particular new idea or technique, unless people start rolling their eyes and shaking their heads we realise it doesn’t go far enough, we are really setting out to change the way we protect people on our roads, and those changes need innovation, creativity, to be evidence based and community support to succeed.

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3rd party video reported video evidence at the “triage” stage…usually accompanied by numerous sharp intakes of breath !!

All of our successful projects, the core of which are #OpClosePass, #OpParkSafe, #OpSaferCross, #20’sPlenty, third party reporting and #MARSO are designed to create an environment whereby if a driver offends or is tempted to offend they do so knowing that there is every chance that no matter where or when that offence takes place there is every likelihood that offence could be detected and prosecuted. The combination of all our day to day efforts has one ultimate aim, to create an environment on the road network of our region that encourages positive transport choices and improves the quality of life of all whilst they travel around their community, people must feel safe, secure and free from the threat of harm, but if they are offended against and endangered they must be certain that positive action will be taken.

 

#OpClosePass   – It’s getting everywhere

Nearly two years on most other police forces have adopted #OpClosePass and Third party reported prosecutions in some form. The protection of vulnerable road users and the creation of road going environments that promote all transport choices has become a priority, whereas two years ago it was unheard of. The fact that we have shown that it is possible and effective utilising minimal resources through our seminars held in partnership with the Road Danger Reduction Forum and West Midlands Fire Service has spurred most forces to use #OpClosePass in some form, especially as the excellent crowd-funded campaign by Cycling UK provided the educational mat needed leaving no excuses not to!

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As well as winning awards #OpClosePass is being replicated nationally and internationally, which is the greatest reward of all to the officers involved

To be effective #OpClosePass needs to be….. As the late great Steve Marriot and the Small Faces sang……”all or nothing”. #OpClosePass is something you cannot dilute or do half-heartedly if you want it to succeed. It is an evidenced based offender targeted operation designed to change the behaviour of those who cause the greatest threat of harm to vulnerable road users. If it is carried out, publicised and reinforced correctly (especially on social and mainstream media) and lastly but most importantly ran alongside an 3rd party reported offence system that provides a constant credible threat of 24/7 prosecution, #OpClosePass works incredibly well fulfilling it’s designed function of changing wholesale driver behaviour around vulnerable road users. If any of these criteria are not met then it will not be as effective as it could be. Ran correctly most drivers will see a cyclist and give the required room, either through the educational messages the campaign sends out or through the potential of prosecution if they don’t. That’s the required criteria for any operation we run, a strong educational/awareness message backed by an credible enforcement threat that makes those to selfish to comply for the needs of others comply instead to guarantee their driving future.

 

#OpClosePass – Evolution

We could just keep on with #OpClosePass in its current format and we still will run our current operations which see numerous offending drivers stopped and immediately educated by our partners in #OpClosePass  ,the officers from West Midland Fire Service. But we are increasingly aware that #OpClosePass offers so much more that we could take advantage of…..and so we will.

When opportunities allow we will run #OpClosePassPlus which will see the unmarked police cyclist detecting not only close pass offences but also the multitude of other offences that the view from a pedal cycle in slow moving traffic offers. So as well as ending a 2 hour operation with our usual dozen or more educated drivers following the Close Pass Due Care offences we will have several seatbelt, mobile phone, vehicle defect  offences as well. Additional traffic resources will intercept vehicles that are also suspected of being used in crime…..there’s no better way to recognise the pungent smell of a cannabis smoking vehicle occupant than from a pedal cycle.

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Up close and very uncomfortable in this case but the dynamics of #OpClosePass provide excellent detection opportunities for a multitude of offences 

On the educational side of #OpClosePass things are evolving too. The excellent officers at West Midlands Woodgate Valley Fire have already started large scale #OpClosePass  education at a corporate level having been very well received at National Express Coventry and now Birmingham, serving up vulnerable road user education to up to 70 drivers in a day. Using this model we plan to use any corporate driver brought into an #OpClosePass site as an opening into the said employer and reinforce that they have a “corporate responsibility” to ensure that all their drivers are properly equipped to ensure the safety of any vulnerable road users they share the road with during the course of their employment.

We are also going to experiment with running #OpClosePass into the fading light using the innovative #Call4Safety downlighters set at 1.5mtr. This will make it quite obvious when an offending driver has passed to close to our cyclist as they encroach into the displayed halo of light that surrounds the cyclist. Trouble is on testing, the “halo” of light around the cyclist seems to reinforce our desired modified driver behaviour as #OpClosePass intended, so we may end up with very few offences, which is interesting !

 

 

@WMPRHRT  ……the twitter account

 

We are going to have our own twitter account, why you may ask; well we want to create something different regards our social media output just as we do our policing output.

The @trafficwmp account is a fantastic account and the #WMPRHRT will still post on the account but our own account will contain posts the are more appropriate to the work of the team and hopefully enable yourselves to interact and understand what the team does and the reasons why on a day to day basis.

As well as the usual tweets of pictures, offences and results we will Vlog a lot of content as the format firstly can pass so much more information and secondly better convey the nature and reasoning behind what we do, the transparency of such posts is excellent and most will be from live operations giving a more thorough insight into what we do and how we do it on a daily basis.

Another form of post we will concentrate on is  #TheTrafficOfficersGuide whereby a short video or tweet will fully explain pieces of legislation, road etiquette, offending etc. and hopefully educate and change the behaviour of those who may potentially offend or alternatively habitually offend.

The account will go live the first week in April but feel free to follow @WMPRHRT in the meantime in preparation for the first posts.

 

So there you go that’s it for now. As the weather warms and the amount of vulnerable road users increases expect to hear a lot about #OpClosePass and #OpClosePassPlus.

 

Until the next time, safe journeys all.

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Motor Cycle Crime……………..Don’t become a victim!

 

Ennis and Wheaver are back again, as guest bloggers, this time around talking about motorcycle crime….read on if you own or are thinking of owning a motorcycle to learn how to protect yourself from becoming a victim……

Just to introduce ourselves, we are commonly known as TB 97 and TB 98, 2 motorcyclists currently with the Road Harm Reduction Team, as part of the CMPG family based at Perry Barr. We are both trained to a national standard, in the identification of stolen vehicles.

 

Our main focus within the team is the prevention and detection of stolen and cloned vehicles, with the aim to prevent dangerous and sometimes fatal incidents of driving, by depriving the criminals the vehicles in the first place.

 

Motorcycling in the UK has had a large enthusiastic following in the UK for many years, in recent years there has been a rise in criminal activity around motorcycles which has had a negative effect for law abiding motorcycle riders, society in general and the motorcycle industry.

 

Very loosely, and not exclusively the criminal activity can be broken down into the following areas.

  • Theft of machines
  • Subsequent sale of stolen machines ( cloning)
  • Breaking and subsequent sale of parts  within UK and abroad
  • Finance and insurance fraud
  • Antisocial use and criminal activity using motorcycles

There are strong links between all of the above, criminals will often branch out into other areas in order to maximise profits.

 

Thanks to the technology available to us all, the world has become an accessible market place to willing customers with cash to spend, a distinct lack of due diligence when purchasing items off the internet  will often be in the favour of criminal gangs.

 

Social media has also had its part to play in fuelling anti-social use of machines, video clips of antisocial and dangerous riding can give the riders a real sense of celebrity, with thousands watching on line and subsequently carrying out copycat behaviour.

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Events are advertised on social media, with some organisers even going as far as to sell clothing and other branded goods, riders are buying in to a lifestyle choice with a degree of notoriety thrown in for free!

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What is very evident is that many of the bikes used for anti-social behaviour, dangerous riding  and criminal activity are not purchased via legitimate sources, it goes without saying that if you have to work hard to save for the machine of your dreams, the chances are you are not going to want to damage it. Easy come easy go springs to mind!

 

Perceptions on Police Pursuit Policy are steeped in rumour, incorrect interpretations and untruths, it is not correct to say that if you don’t wear a helmet or ride on the footpath, the Police will not pursue, many of the riders believe they are in a win/ win situation, they have an overestimation of their skills and abilities and a belief that they are above the law.

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It goes without saying that officers have to strike a balance, yes they want to apprehend offenders but not at all costs, innocent members of the public must be protected from the thoughtless and dangerous actions of a small minority, there are several tactical options including the use of stinger and DNA sprays to identify offenders and remote aerial monitoring with high quality video capability.

 

Antisocial, dangerous, illegal riding and criminal behaviour will not be tolerated.

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In the UK in 2017 there were around 27k thefts of machines; both on road and off road, a large percentage of these machines are never recovered.

 

Many of the thefts relate to the London area, not surprising due to the amount of machines used for commuting, many of the London thefts relate to smaller machines and scooters, but the issue is not exclusive to London, the whole of the UK is victim to this area of vehicle crime.

 

By their very nature, motorcycles are an attractive proposition to criminals, they are easy to steal if left unattended and insecure, poor physical security and a lack of social awareness can make motorcycle theft a high gain low risk occupation, with financial restraints imposed on Police forces, this area of crime may not be high on Police Chiefs agendas.

 

In Birmingham, August 2017, Police Officers attend an area known to be used by commuting motorcyclist and over a period of two weeks noted which motorcycles were parked in the allocated parking bays, this was also an area where motorcycle thieves were known to operate.

 

What was discovered was that many of the motorcycles had little or no security devices fitted, only 40% of the bikes had any meaningful security, some of the machines did not even have the steering lock activated, one had the keys in the ignition and even removable items such as sat- navs were left in plain view.

 

Evidence from officers and CCTV showed that machines were being selected by criminals and then were ped- pushed away, a method where two thieves arrive on a high powered scooter and, then simply push the machine away by the rider of the scooter placing his foot on the rear footrests of the selected motorcycle and using the scooter to power both machines away. The machines can be pushed to a location some distance away or loaded into a van, out of view.

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The criminals were able to have their choice of machines with faces covered to hide from CCTV, no security to slow them down and no social interventions from the public.

 

To raise the issue within the motorcycle community Officers devised what looked at first glance like a parking ticket. Any machines that had no security fitted had a ticket placed on it. The idea was to give a shock response and encourage riders to improve security, in addition all the local motorcycle dealers were visited and a significant social media campaign was launched.

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The effect was significant, after 4 weeks the return on motorcycles with meaningful security had risen to over 90%, the general consensus from the bikers was that they appreciated the reminder to lock their machines, especially because the officers were motorcyclists as well.

 

It would be wrong to say that this exercise has halted the theft of motorcycles across the city, it was only conducted in a small area to test the concept, it is fair however to say, although strikingly obvious, that if you lock your machine with some meaningful security, it is less likely to be stolen, not exactly rocket science!

 

Our security advice for Motorcyclists would be:-

  • Always lock your machine and remove any unsecure valuables
  • Use a quality lock and chain, preferably lock the machine to something secure
  • Consider where you place the chain and lock to guard against cutting and attack
  • Try and park in well-lit busy areas utilising any CCTV that may be available
  • Report any unusual or suspicious behaviour to Police, don’t assume someone else will do it
  • Don’t become part of the problem, only buy spares or equipment from reputable sources, if something appears to be too good to be true, it probably is!

 

If you wish to report any suspicious activity, most Police forces will allow for this to be done on line or call 101 unless it is an emergency

Introducing the Road Harm Reduction Team #WMPRHRT

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls…..may we introduce………..The Road Harm Reduction Team

 Autumn is approaching, so with the coming of the “Season of the Witch” it’s only right that this blog is enjoyed with a warming coffee and a large slice of cake, always thought coffee and walnut was quite autumnal, with a little double cream, or maybe some warming bread pudding with custard…..hmmmmm decisions. Once decided on your chosen autumnal cake we can sit, relax and read on, all maybe enjoyed to the delightful sounds of “Season of the Witch” from Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Steve Stills’s “Super Session”  yeah that’s nice…………now let us continue 😉

 

The Road Harm Reduction Team ?

The Road Harm Reduction Team……? What’s that then we hear you say, well it’s evolution in progress, it’s the result of the realisation that we need to do more of what we do so well here in the West Midlands Police, to an even higher standard, and most importantly all of the time.

But first a little scene setting….. We (as in Police Forces generally) are great at developing new and exciting ways of tackling property crime, utilising all that the latest technology and analytical techniques to catch those responsible and deter offending offer. Alas when it comes to the threat of harm on our road network nothing has really changed, we police in the same way as we did 30 years ago, doing the same things in the same way, same campaigns at the same time of year, trouble is attitudes, offending, our transport network, our communities resulting needs and concerns have changed dramatically in those 30 years, and given recent environmental, health and congestion concerns those changes are accelerating at a dramatic pace. The long and short of it is the way we police the threat of harm on our roads needs to firstly catch up, and develop at a faster pace than the change. Only this way can we play our part in dealing with some worrying national KSI statistics whilst working in partnership with our local authorities make each and every community’s transport plan work to the benefit of all.

Almost a bit of a mission statement there………

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Rear Admiral Grace Hoppers famous quote couldn’t be more appropriate when it comes to dealing with danger on our roads.

 

 

So what will the Road Harm Reduction Team do ?

Well for a start it will do more of what we’ve been doing over the last 12 months, all our efforts to ensure we target the greatest threat of harm on our road network will get a boost as 7 officers on the team will be dedicated to the task, enabling them to get on with their efforts to reduce the threat of danger without distraction. Our Operations to protect vulnerable road users will become far more common and widespread, thus creating an environment in the West Midlands where firstly road users who pose a threat of harm to others can expect to be caught and dealt with, and secondly where those who wish to utilise a healthier, sustainable form of transport supported by the regions transport plan can do so, confident that we are targeting those on the roads who deter them from doing so presently.

The 7 officers will be working in alongside our Roads Policing 24/7 resources, Neighbourhood Teams, Partnership Agencies, The West Midlands Fire Service and the Force Resource Unit, thus we will have a large targeted resource to make a hugely positive impact on offending in our region. Together we will concentrate on intervention, prevention and detection to reduce the threat of harm to those who use our regions road network. Together with our partnership agencies we will carry out many more Multi Agency Road Safety Operations (#MARSO), which entails ourselves and other enforcement agencies combining with our educational partners to target a specific vulnerable location in large numbers for maximum effect with all manner of road going offenders and offences being targeted at once. As you can imagine the effect on offending, both of the criminal and road harm variety is substantial, so as a result we will look to carry out as many as possible.

To give you an idea a normal days work for officers on the team it could entail running a 20mph speed check followed by a #OpClosePass operation and finishing off with a mobile phone operation. Each and every day of the officer’s time will be dedicated to targeting those who present the greatest threat of harm to our communities whilst they use the regions road network.

Targeting will be analysis and intelligence based, our analysts will constantly update the team as to the most vulnerable locations in the region so they can be appropriately targeted. The team will through analysis of driver records target the most dangerous and emerging prolific road traffic offenders. Through analysis even those with no current points on their licence will be highlighted. For example if a driver has come to our notice repeatedly, even if those interactions resulted in education instead of prosecution they will be highlighted and efforts will be made to change their road going behaviour and seek reform , just as we currently do with criminal offending. This way we can target those who pose a threat of danger to our communities before they actually cause harm.

 

Partnership working to the fore

The team will continue with its partnership working in unison with the local authority and the West Midland Fire Service, both who will educate where necessary, leaving us free to deal with those who offend. Exciting developments using VR as part of the education package on #OpClosePass are already in the pipeline. Our partners will engage with our communities carrying out education and awareness prior to the Road Harm Reduction Team carrying out periods of enforcement, leaving those offenders who as a result face prosecution in no doubt they had they were warned and had chance to “voluntarily” change their behaviour on the roads.

The officers on the team will work on a daily basis with officers from local Neighbourhood Teams and in doing so will “up skill” the Neighbourhood officers. So when the team move on to another area the Neighbourhood officers can carry on with the same tactics and targeting of their communities greatest threat of harm, with the Road Harm Reduction Team coming back on a regular basis to target “hotspot areas” or pass on new tactics and techniques. This ensures a continuous threat of prosecution will remain in all areas of the West Midlands, so important in deterring offending.

Also whilst working with the regions Neighbourhood Policing Teams we will get opportunity to work with and teach every new student officer all that we know, thus every new West Midland Police Officer will be equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to enable them to target and prosecute those who pose a danger to others on our road network as they progress with their careers. This is such an important factor as it will ensure that the work that we do will spread as will the necessary ethos that will ensure that the changes in approach we have started continues and gathers the necessary momentum to ensure a wide scale change in offender behaviour in our region.

 

Tactics, Overt and covert and further innovation

Our tactics will continue to be truly innovative concentrating on putting doubt into any potential offenders mind. We want to create an overriding sense of certainty in any potential offenders mind that should their road use fall below the expected standard to the point where it threatens others with harm then they will be caught and prosecuted. This might be through our efforts or through 3rd party reporting, but either way we will not neglect a single opportunity to deal with the threat of harm on our roads in a direct and pro-active fashion.

Sometimes we will be highly visible for impact, sometimes we won’t be seen at all, the first offender will know we were out there looking for them will be when the notice of intended prosecution drops through their or their employers door, the impact of the unseen threat of prosecution having a huge impact on the psychology of potential offenders we will utilise it where-ever we see fit. Plus it gives us reason to expand our ever growing “fancy dress” box 😉

The innovation with a concentration on those who pose the greatest threat of harm will come to the fore. #OpClosePass #OPSaferSchool #OpSaferCross # and 20’splenty will continue to evolve until we get that perfect formula with each that ensures they deliver the wide scale behavioural change our communities desire.

 

Campaign Ownership

The Road Harm Reduction Team will have campaigns, but these campaigns will last all year, with all the offences that pose greatest threat of harm to our communities being targeted all of the time with the same “gusto“, resources and most importantly results that you usually associate with week long campaigns. We will still participate and support National campaigns but the work associated with them will just be “business as usual” for the team. That’s really the best way to describe the team, imagine a group of officers who are solely tasked with dealing with those who commit the offences that cause the most danger on our regions roads 365 days a year…….it’s like the ultimate campaign if you like. This with the other measures we have discussed and our 3rd party reporting scheme will create an environment on our regions roads where offenders can expect that if they offend they will be caught and prosecuted. The peaks and troughs seen in offending as national campaigns have effect then lessen, will smooth to the levels of the “troughs” and then as our tactics create the desired environment where offenders expect to be dealt with should they offend we will see a steady decline in offending levels, and with it a corresponding reduction collisions across the board. This will have huge benefits to the local environment, business and community wellbeing……as we have said time and time again the work that the Road Harm Reduction Team will engage in is basically the ultimate community policing project. It brings trust, confidence, visibility and change to those communities that want positive changes to their areas, and a road network that offers positive transport choices.

 

There is it then………

Expect to hear a lot from the team, watch out for the #WMPRHRT (West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team) hash tag and the #Interventionandprevention hash tag on the twitter feed and upcoming blogs as we deal with those who pose the greatest threat to our communities on the regions roads. We will feature the developments in #OpClosePass , the 20’s plenty campaign, and also developments in 3rd party reporting in upcoming blogs. There will be a blog dedicated to how the Road Harm Reduction Team have developed a way to combat the worrying rise in “cloned” vehicles on our roads and in doing so eradicate the danger they and those that drive them pose also.

Oh we forgot to mention the being part of or associated with the team will also involve a lot of cake, in-fact any carbohydrate infused mood enhancer will be consumed in vast quantities. This is due to our respective commutes having increased to our new base, which means longer spent cycling and running to work, plus given all the work we plan to take on we will need the energy anyway…….. And we just like cake 😉

Time for another appropriate tune, how about Something in the Air by Thunderclap Newman now there’s a  tune if there ever was one and couldn’t be more appropriate…….pass the coffee and walnut cake.

 

Until next time safe journeys all

 

 

 

Phones, Belts and 20’s

 

Phones, Belts and 20mph limits

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This time around we will be discussing two of this year’s campaigns, firstly the mobile phone campaign from March with its increased penalty and also the latest seatbelt campaign. We will also talk about 20 mph limits and making them work so the local communities they are introduced to protect see the true benefits rather than just a change of signage. This one’s going to be fairly relaxed compared to recent blogs, and shorter, so put on a little light jazz, maybe Take Five by The Dave Brubeck Quartet and grab your favourite coffee or herbal tea and relax….

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Look up !!!!!

 

 

Smart phone + not so smart driver = 6 points and £200

Here’s our narrative from the latest mobile phone campaign….

It’s the start of March, enough is enough, the penalty for using a mobile device whilst driving has been increased to 6 points and £200 fine. The nation stands up and takes notice as white traffic hats dominate mainstream news, never seen so many white hat adorned police officers from so many forces, it’s like an army of really stern ice cream sales people….  a new sentencing package and a week- long awareness campaign to enforce begins :

Day 1…. Sales of phone cradles have rocketed, or they must have as suddenly every other vehicle now has one complete with smart phone secured snugly inside. You can’t miss them as most are unlawfully and inappropriately placed in the swept area of the windscreen creating blind-spots galore!! Drivers treat their once beloved mobile devices like a venomous snake daring not to handle them in the confines of their car knowing that officers are just waiting for one slip up to action the new improved penalties, it’s all over the news, awareness is high, it seems to be working.

Day 2 -7…. Enforcement is high, social media posts highlighting novel detection methods and the worst offenders abound, driving instructors, HGV drivers, and Taxi drivers, the so called professional drivers, are everywhere. The responses on social media condemn the offenders, it still seems to be working.

Day 8 -14…. The mobile phone cradles still create a blind spot in the swept area, but they’re empty now, maybe everyone has given up on, lost or had their mobile device stolen…….. or maybe not. The new penalty is old news, everyone is talking about something else, the offending rate is starting to creep up…..

Day 15……the cradles are gone, as has the fear of prosecution, the phones have re-appeared back in the hands of drivers…..it’s just as it was in the last days of February once again

……and that ladies and gentlemen was the introduction of the new mobile phone penalty, an exercise in evidencing why penalties need a constant, credible threat of wide scale and probable prosecution all year round otherwise they might as well not exist…….which brings us onto the seatbelt campaign…..

 

 

Campaign Culture…this time seatbelts

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Campaign Culture……you’ll hear this a lot from us over the next 12 months and the need to move away from it to a constant credible threat of prosecution all year round. It’s not that we disapprove of campaigns, they have a very important part to play in reducing the inherent threat of danger on our road network, they do impact on many educationally, raising awareness, and they impact behaviourally on some, but not on those who pose the greatest threat of harm to the many…… we’ll bring you some exciting developments in the West Midland Police Force in a blog later this week that address the issues we’ve just discussed, plus there’s more thoughts on this subject at the end of this blog,……any way we’ve digressed back to the seatbelt campaign.

Probably the second most widely contravened of the #Fatal4 offences (behind speeding) it is commonplace to see people not wearing a seatbelt in its various forms, whether it be the unsecured child in the rear through to the un-belted HGV driver, why….well it’s because it just hasn’t been enforced as rigorously as it should have. And like the mobile phone offence that preceded in this blog it probably needs a higher penalty and an all year round concentration on enforcement….let me explain.

It’s all about the bigger picture, we’ve written about this before. Not wearing a seatbelt isn’t as simplistic as it seems. If someone doesn’t wear a belt, the repercussions when it all goes wrong don’t only impact on them and their family, there is a huge cost to wider society, the expense to the NHS for one, the closure of roads placing impacting on the wider economy, the use of emergency services, the cost of a serious or even fatal RTC enquiry which runs to millions of pounds. Surely given all these factors the offence of not wearing a seatbelt should now be an endorsable offence giving at least a 3 point penalty. The driver should be responsible for what occurs in their vehicle, the not wearing of a belt by any occupant should impact on the driver, don’t belt up, don’t get driven, if the driver choses to drive with an unsecured passenger then points should be the consequence. But again, it would need a continuous, realistic threat of enforcement, if not such legislation would be just a waste of ink upon the ever growing statute books. But of course laws needs enforcement, enforcement needs enforcers which brings us nicely onto 20mph limits…………….

 

20 is Plenty – Making it work

20mph limits are the future in urban areas, we’ve discussed the arguments for and against before, but the residents of the areas in Birmingham that have now had them since October last year simply love them, and that is the essence of why their enforcement is so important, because like #OpClosePass , #OpSaferSchools and #OpSaferCross, it is essentially a community policing project, the enforcement  brings an improvement in quality of life and transport choices to residents in effected areas, and that is so very important in modern day society. The benefits of communities being able to engage with and choose sustainable healthier transport choices bring so many positives on so many fronts, not to create a safer road network to enable such choices to all would simply be a disgrace…….which is why we were a little dismayed to hear that in some parts of the country 20 mph limits were at risk, because apparently drivers were not complying with them !!!

 

Well what a surprise….drivers that have for decades failed to comply with 30mph limits now failed to comply with the new 20mph limits…shocker….never saw that coming. Apparently the change of signage didn’t make a bit of difference to their road going behaviour, who would of thought…….

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The self-enforcing 20mph limit is a myth, take it from experienced traffic officers who regularly pursue vehicles over and around all manner of traffic calming measures at speeds in excess of 60mph, there is no such thing. So when some state 20mph limits shouldn’t be enforced, they are in effect “voluntary” we sit here with a quite quizzical look upon our faces. You see no other speed limits have to be self -enforcing, when we drop limits in rural areas, say villages or particularly hazardous country roads, we enforce to ensure compliance, “Smart” motorways with their variable limits have galleries of enforcing cameras. We know 20mph limits are evidently the most important speed limit to our communities, and have the largest potential of any limit to positively effect lifestyle choices and reduce the amount of people killed or seriously injured on our roads, so why not enforce them ?

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Well in the West Midlands we will, rigorously. We’ve spent the last 6 months testing the waters with tactics to see what works best and will in the coming months produce a blog detailing how we will make the 20 mph limits work to their full potential, benefiting all in our region. And those who oppose the idea will in time come around as the concepts of “children being able to play in the street, cycle to school, parents taking the healthier option to walk or cycle to the shops become a reality as the motor vehicle, for so long the negative influence that prevents positive lifestyle choices, is forced into community chosen compliance where it still has a large part to play to the transport infrastructure of our region, but a safer and healthier one.

 

In this blog we’ve talked about the need for a continuous probable threat of prosecution to be present to ensure wide-scale compliance with the laws that are so commonly broken on our roads. Campaigns and the resulting “Campaign culture” that preside over many of the nation’s efforts to reduce the danger on roads offer temporary solace from the seemingly never ending stream of offending by all to many road users. Effective whilst in progress and for a short time after they have a great role to play at key times of the year, such as the Christmas drink drive campaign. All too often though key messages are quickly forgotten as the public’s attention switches to more recent news and the behaviour of those who pose the greatest threat to others on our roads remains unchanged.

Well we think we’ve got the answer that will resolve the never ending cycle of peak/trough wide-scale offending, it’s exciting and new, it’s been taking up a lot of our time over the last month, thus our absence from our social media channels…….but you’ll have to wait until later in the week for the details.

 

That’s it for this one, told you it would be short compared to our normal prolonged ramblings….time for a little more jazz, cake and your favourite brew.

 

Safe journeys all.