More than 20,000 motorists across Norfolk and Suffolk have received warnings after being caught speeding through the region’s villages by teams of volunteers.

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The Community Speedwatch schemes launched in Hopton in Norfolk in 2007 and Blythburgh in Suffolk in 2009.

And approaching the fifth anniversary of the Norfolk scheme, new figures have shown almost 11,000 drivers have been caught out in this time by groups of do-it-yourself speed enforcers. Similar figures have also been recorded in Suffolk in the past three years.

Now a road safety charity has said it would like to see “greater enforcement” actions being taken by police, with the number of warning letters being issued by the community teams showing that too many people in Norfolk and Suffolk are suffering through speeding in their communities.

The first Community Speedwatch (CSW) scheme was piloted in Hopton, near Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, in July 2007. Within five months more than 100 motorists had been sent official police warning letters – and by January 2008 the scheme had been extended across Norfolk.

Almost five years on, 10,917 letters have been issued to drivers, according to the latest Norfolk police figures.

The efforts of the Speedwatch teams of volunteers were praised by police for having a “real impact” on raising awareness of the speeds people drive and helping improve safety.

Insp David Ball, of the Norfolk and Suffolk Road Policing Unit, said: “We think it works very, very well. Since we launched Community Speedwatch in Hopton it has been a 100pc success.

“It has made a real impact on safety and anti-social behaviour, as speeding in villages is anti-social behaviour.”

Since the scheme was trialled in Hopton it has been rolled out across a number of parishes in Norfolk with great success.

Now there are 57 schemes running across Norfolk, with two more parishes recently trained, four more awaiting training and “60-odd applications” submitted to police.

The first Suffolk Speedwatch scheme was launched in January 2009, and according to police figures, 10,934 letters have been issued to drivers since the initiative was established, with 440 having been sent further letters after being caught for a second time.

Ellen Booth, Brake senior campaigns officer, said: “The swathe of warning letters issued by Community Speedwatch schemes show that too many people in Norfolk and Suffolk are suffering through speeding in their communities to the extent that they feel moved to act to protect themselves by setting up these groups.

“While these schemes are extremely worthwhile and help to make roads safer, Brake would like to see greater enforcement through cameras or through traffic policing as they have the power to issue penalty points, so that drivers who are repeatedly caught speeding and endangering lives will face eventual disqualification through totting up points.

“Speeding, and other risk-taking on roads, should be a priority for police action as speeding makes roads more dangerous and crashes more likely. The faster your speed, the longer it will take you to stop and the harder you will hit if you lose control,” she added. “We would urge drivers to keep within the speed limit at all times, and slow to 20mph when driving in communities, to protect their communities and particularly vulnerable road-users such as pedestrians and cyclists. ”

Although Speedwatch teams are not empowered to issue fines, the scheme – which sees volunteers armed with speed guns carrying out visible roadside patrols – has been hailed by police as an effective deterrent.

Currently there are 33 schemes and 165 parishes involved in Suffolk. Among the schemes in Waveney, is the Lowestoft North group, which seeks to enforce 30mph zones in Blundeston, Somerleyton, Corton and Lound. Volunteers in Southwold and Wrentham have also been given speed guns.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: “There are local communities who are very concerned about speeding through their areas and I think seeing these teams in these hotspots does trigger something in a motorists’ mind for them to slow down, to take extra attention on the roads and to be more careful.”

Police say the aim of Speedwatch is not to fine speeding motorists, but to remind them of their responsibilities. If somebody is recorded speeding then the registered keeper of the vehicle is contacted and issued with a written warning and advice. Those who continue to offend, and are recorded for a third time, are referred to Roads Policing and the local Safer Neighbourhood Team for police action.

A Suffolk police spokesman said: “The Speedwatch initiative has grown in popularity since its launch in 2009, with a focus on providing a visual deterrent, and educating speeding drivers to slow down through our communities. It also aims to re-educate drivers about the hazards of speeding and address other road safety issues.”

The spokesman added that “around 10pc” of drivers in Suffolk received a second warning letter, meaning “90pc of people are never recorded again.”

Echoing these sentiments, Insp Ball added: “The vast majority of drivers heed the warning and from that perspective it’s a win-win situation.”

Since launching in Hopton almost five years ago, new traffic calming measures and improvements have been made in the village. So much so that the Community Speedwatch equipment was returned to Norfolk Constabulary a couple of years ago.

Hopton parish council chairman Lennie Gent said: “It did have an effect on reducing the speeds through the village and because it was having an effect it got harder and harder to have the volunteers attend to carry out the speed checks.”

Mr Gent added that within the past couple of years a zebra crossing had been installed in Station Road and traffic improvements were made around the primary school site.

“It has been a real benefit to Hopton,” Mr Gent said.

And although the Community Speedwatch scheme no longer runs in the village, the parish council are continuing to work with their local PCSO officers whenever “complaints” and speed issues arise in Hopton.

CASE STUDY

The first Suffolk Speedwatch scheme was launched in January 2009 by villagers in Blythburgh, who were concerned about vehicles speeding on the A12 through the village.

Binny Lewis, pictured, co-ordinator of the Blythburgh scheme, said: “The aim of Speedwatch groups first and foremost is not to catch the highest number of speeding motorists.

“The aim is to reduce speeding in areas of the most concern and to remind drivers they are entering that zone,” she said.

“The residents of Blythburgh are very supportive and say they have noticed a difference, and that’s the main thing. They have noticed speeding is reduced when Speedwatch volunteers are standing there.”

Mrs Lewis said the volunteers all endorsed the aim of Suffolk police to get drivers to slow down, as speed kills.

She added that figures showed one fatal accident in 10 was caused by excessive speeding.

The 10,934 letters sent to the registered owners of vehicles in Suffolk, who were recorded as driving faster than the speed limit, ask the motorists to slow down in future.

Mrs Lewis said towns or villages needed at least six volunteers and the backing of the police and the local parish council to start a local speed-monitoring scheme.

The Blythburgh Speedwatch scheme said that between January 13 and 31 this year, four motorists were reported to the police.

The highest speed was 39mph on the Dunwich Road.

During February, 16 vehicles were reported with the highest speed being 51mph on the A12.

mark.boggis@archant.co.uk

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