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Is it time to make speeding as socially unacceptable as drink driving?

Devon’s average speed cameras have hit the headlines again – this time after motorists complained to the press that they had been caught twice while on the same journey.

Is it time to make speeding as socially unacceptable as drink driving?

In one case this happened when someone drove too quickly through the 20mph zone in Old Laira Road in Plymouth, then again in the 30mph zone along Billacombe and Elberton Road.

One fixed penalty notice can spoil your day, so getting two must be upsetting. Irate with the road safety camera partnership, he told his story to the media.

There is something about motoring offences that society still thinks of as socially acceptable. You couldn’t imagine someone complaining to the press, with their picture and name published, that they had been caught too many times by police with cocaine on them, or that over-zealous officers had insisted on charging them each time they committed grievous bodily harm.

These average speed cameras are there for a reason. People live on these roads and are at risk from speeding drivers in an area with multiple obstacles. The cameras are there with the consent of the communities they protect. And, of course, there’s a simple way to avoid getting caught speeding. There was a great deal of publicity when they were installed, and warning signs everywhere.

The charity Brake tells us that someone is killed or seriously injured every 16 minutes on British roads, and although we live in a relatively crime free part of the country, there are far too many deaths on Devon and Cornwall’s highways.

Appeals for clemency by drivers who flout the law and put others at risk are likely to fall on deaf ears when they reach Devon and Cornwall’s roads police officers. That’s because these poor officers had to knock on 47 doors last year to tell families that a loved one was never coming home. It is perhaps why those officers who wear white hats are particularly no nonsense when the excuses start to flow.

The tragedy is that most roads casualties will have been avoidable. So many have been caused by the most mundane of errors. Thinking a text message couldn’t wait until the next stop, rushing so as not to be late for a meeting, skipping a track on Spotify.

And those who argue that they can drive safely at speed are simply wrong. It shortens reaction times and adds energy to collisions, worsening outcomes for all involved. Excess speed is a contributory factor in one in three crashes and can be the difference between life and death.

We are coming towards the end of a three-week nationwide operation, spearheaded by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC). It includes National Safe Speed Day last Wednesday (19th) when drivers were encouraged to think about the speeds they use, to reflect on why they may exceed speed limits and to commit to making all their road journeys at speeds that are both legal and safe for the conditions.

Forces will this week ramp up higher-profile speed enforcement activity, focussing on roads and areas where speeding is known to be an issue or there is a history of serious collisions.

We know that progress is possible, hundreds more citizens are helping Devon and Cornwall Police make our roads safer by submitting dashcam footage of dangerous driving through the force’s Operation Snap system. And the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership is working on some innovative solutions across the region towards its target of cutting casualties by 50% by 2030. For example, a camera system that catches drivers using mobile phones is being trialled by the force and featured on the BBC’s Crimewatch Live show this month. The picture it took of a man on his phone while his passenger partner reached over to steer was an example of the extreme dangerous behaviour we see too much of.

And last week saw our fantastic Community Speed Watch volunteers come together for a seminar with the officers who lead highways enforcement. It was a great chance for us to thank them for their dedication to making us all safer.

For the sakes of all of those who have lost a loved one all members of society, whether they are drivers or not, this week I will be asking you to do you bit to make speeding every bit as unacceptable as drink driving now is.

And until there are no deaths on our roads I will support police enforcement action that ultimately takes licences away from the irresponsible and reckless, and make no apologies for it.