Roddy Graham's blog: 6 June 2011 - A new approach to cutting speeding
06 June 2011
Roddy Graham is chairman of the ICFM and commercial director of Leasedrive Velo
Swindon has never really struck me as a pioneering town but then I'm not old enough to remember its role in our great railways. After all, the Great Western Railway is so named for a reason. Today visitors to Swindon are more likely to find out about the town's heritage through visiting the Outlet shopping complex located in the sympathetically renovated former engineering works where great steam engines were built and serviced.
The home of Honda in the UK is also famous for its magic roundabout, a road junction outside Swindon Town FC guaranteed to frighten any newcomer. It boasts not three roundabouts but four around a larger central one which will send into panic-mode the unwary but is taken in their stride by local residents.
Swindon however has been in the news for various other pioneering initiatives in recent years. For example, Swindon became the first town in the UK to offer free wireless internet access to all its residents. The £1m project to build the 'WiFi Mesh' has positioned Swindon as a technological forerunner in 21st Century Britain with 1400 internet access points dotted around the fast-growing town. Whether, it still is I don't know but certainly a few years ago it boasted being the fastest growing town in Europe.
Then somewhat controversially Swindon decided to switch off all its speed cameras. The local council determined they cost too much to run and instead adopted a new policy of erecting speed warning signs on various approaches.
Now comes news of another pioneering initiative, the installation of a hi-tech traffic light scheme which will see traffic lights automatically turn to red to stop speeding drivers! Now that's what I call a clever idea.
Two roads in the town have been chosen for the pilot scheme, the first in the UK. Both the roads have a speed limit of 40mph and have seen several accidents in the last five years including a fatality at each. Statistics have shown that 67 per cent of drivers exceed the speed limit along the one road and 38 per cent along the other.
Specialist equipment located well in advance of a set of traffic lights, but connected to the traffic signal system, records the speeds of all passing traffic. Drivers over an unspecified speed threshold trigger the traffic signals at the junction to turn from green to red thus slowing them down and making it pointless to exceed the local speed limit.
The Data Logger, as it is called, is so clever it will recognise speeding emergency service vehicle number plates and ensure that the lights don't turn to red when they are on an emergency call.
Furthermore, the system is likely to only kick in at off-peak times when traffic volumes are much lower and speeding much higher.
The Wiltshire and Swindon Road Safety Partnership together with the Swindon Council say that such schemes have been used in Europe but never in the UK. If the trial is successful, the system will be rolled out across the town.
We've already heard talk about networks of average speed cameras being installed across the country to catch and fine speeding drivers but this scheme appears to me a far more sensible approach to educating and warning drivers about speeding. It will reinforce the message that by sticking to the speed limit you will get to your destination in town quicker and, more importantly, safely. Hats off to Swindon for its pioneering approach.
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