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Why Community Speed Watch is vital to roads policing

Recently, I have spent some time catching-up with officers, staff, and volunteers from our Roads Policing Team, seeing the work that they do, and talking to them about the impact it is having. I’d like to tell you about some of the work taking place to ensure Dorset’s roads are safe and policed robustly.

From fixed and mobile speed cameras, and the dedication of our Community Speed Watch volunteers, to our Interceptors team and serious collision officers, road policing in Dorset is a model admired by others and cited as a successful example thanks to the positive results we are seeing year after year. In 2023, we saw the number of casualties fall once again, and we recorded the lowest number of deaths on our roads on record. I am fully committed to ensuring these results continue to fall to the lowest figures possible.

Just this week, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Community Speed Watch teams from across the county during a special day of action. I was delighted to have the opportunity to personally thank them for the work they are doing. Our roads are safer thanks to the work of these selfless volunteers. Their work enables our officers and staff to ensure repeat offenders and high-risk drivers are targeted and if appropriate, taken off the roads. Each section of our road policing operation is critical to ensuring our casualty figures continue to fall, as they have consistently over the past few years.

Today, I’d like to welcome Mark Armstrong, head of road safety at Dorset Police to tell us more about the work they do.

“When it comes to road safety in Dorset, we've looked at what we can do from a prevention and education stance. We've got our fixed cameras, we've got our mobile safety cameras, we've got our Community Speed Watch teams, we've got police officers in the No Excuse team, we look at intelligence from CSW teams and the public and act accordingly.

“Like other areas of policing, the public act as our eyes and ears. Their intelligence telling us where people are causing problems, whether that is through speeding or anti-social driving for example, is crucial. It helps to inform where our mobile safety cameras are deployed for example and feeds through to our intelligence-led enforcement. The work of our Community Speed Watch (CSW) volunteers is also integral to this, they’re our trained eyes and ears on the ground and the success that we have in keeping our roads safe in Dorset is in large part down to their work. Without the support we get from CSW, we couldn’t do what we do. They provide us with vital intelligence and the numbers of volunteers we have across Dorset, makes their work very powerful. We may be a small county, but we punch above our weight with CSW as is shown by the decreasing number of road casualties.

“All our CSW teams are volunteers, they’re not paid, and ultimately, they’re doing it to protect their families, their friends and to make their community safer. It’s very frustrating when we hear they have received rude gestures, verbal abuse and on the rare occasion someone may get out of their car and threaten them. This stems from people having a fundamental misunderstanding of what these dedicated people are there to do, and that’s to slow vehicles down. The slower a vehicle is going, the less damage it will do if it is in a collision. We know that if you’re hit with a vehicle doing 30mph, you stand an 80% chance of surviving; if you’re hit with a vehicle doing 40mph, you’ve only got a 20% chance of surviving.

“What we try and do is create deterrence. People living in Dorset know we exist, and while some may criticise us for various aspects of our work, the reality is, if people weren’t breaking the law, putting themselves and others at risk, we wouldn’t be there. The message I would give to the public is, when you get behind the wheel, you have a tonne of metal as a weapon. And if you’re getting into that vehicle drunk or on drugs, you’re wielding that weapon and you’re not in control. That’s why what we’re doing across the board is so important. The figures bear that out.” 

Thanks to Mark for his valuable input. The work being carried out to keep Dorset’s roads safe is vital, and without every pillar of our roads policing team – from road safety to our Interceptor team who use intelligence to target high-risk road users breaking the law, to our serious collision officers - driving the county’s roads would undoubtedly be more dangerous for us all. I thank them for the work they are doing and their commitment to keeping people safe across our county.

I want to be clear that if you decide to get in a car and speed or drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol or commit any other offence, you are putting your own and others' lives at risk and this is completely unacceptable. Dorset Police will not tolerate this behaviour so don’t run the risk. By sticking to the law and continuing to report others who aren’t, we can all help to make Dorset the safest county.

David Sidwick

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner

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