Speeding drivers blight on communities

Rob GarrattCommunities plagued by speeding vehicles have resoundingly backed a call for drivers to cut their speed through the region's villages after a new study revealed the extent of the problem.Rob Garratt

Communities plagued by speeding have resoundingly backed a call for motorists to slow down as they drive through the region's villages, after a study revealed the extent of the problem.

A survey by campaign group Brake, out today, shows that nearly three quarters of motorists admit to driving at 35mph in a 30mph limit.

The findings have prompted communities in Norfolk and Suffolk once again to urge drivers to slow down.

One community to suffer is Rack-heath, near Norwich, where speedwatch co-ordinator Lillian Stavridis says about 90pc of drivers break the 30mph limit through the village. "The 30mph limit seems to be the most difficult for people to stick to," she said. "Some people seem incapable of doing 30."

Brake's campaign hammers home the dangers of speed by highlighting calculations which show that striking a child at 36mph would cause injuries equivalent to a fall from a fifth-storey window.

Norfolk Brake campaigner Liz Voysey said: "Speeding in some of Norfolk's little villages is worse than anywhere.

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"Speed limits are put there for a reason, not just to inconvenience people. They make it really easy for drivers by telling them what speeds are safe - but there is just a total arrogance and selfishness in drivers who refuse to follow them. There would be more people alive today if drivers stuck to the speed limits."

Another village where residents say there have been sustained problems with speed is Yaxham, near Dereham, where speedwatch volunteers this week clocked a motorcyclist doing 58mph in a 30mph zone.

Mother-of-two Rachel Higgins is one of a number of villagers campaigning for lower speed limits and more signage to reduce speeds past the primary school.

She said: "The study doesn't surprise me at all; we see people breaking the speed limit all the time. They do it and

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it's wrong. It's the fact that people have admitted it that is worrying.

"It's really dangerous - one day something is going to happen. It makes me feel sick."

Brake's survey of 9,000 drivers shows that 72pc of people behind the wheel admit breaking 30mph speed limits by 5mph, with 36pc of drivers breaking the limit between once a day and once a week.

But traffic camera statistics suggest the actual number of speeding journeys may be far higher. Nationally, 49pc of all cars exceed 30mph limits, with 18pc of all cars travelling at 35mph or more.

Hopton, near Great Yarmouth, was the first village to introduce a speedwatch scheme in the region, which sees villagers wear high-visibility jackets and patrol the roadside with a speedgun, passing information on to the police.

Parish council chairman Mike Butcher said: "Most people don't actually realise the speed they're doing. There are streets in all our villages where we all know people speed."

Other villages to be dogged by speeding drivers are Westleton, in north Suffolk, where volunteers launched a speedwatch scheme in February. A similar scheme was employed a year earlier in nearby Blythburgh, near Southwold.

However, while community speedwatch programmes have helped lower speeds through a number of the region's communities, this week Bradwell Parish Council had to ditch plans to introduce a scheme after only two people volunteered to take part since October.

Around 10,000 people in Norfolk a year, who are caught marginally over the limit, complete Norfolk County Council's Speed Awareness Course, which aims to hammer home the importance of keeping to the limit.

A police spokesman said: "Our priority is the safety of all motorists on Norfolk's roads. We work closely with our partners to reduce speeding and the number of casualties killed or seriously injured in the county.

"Anyone caught speeding will face appropriate action - this can include a fine, fixed penalty notice, a points deduction or even a custodial sentence."

One pioneering attempt to reduce speeds into four Norfolk villages uses psychological tricks to make drivers slow down.

The �70,000 trial relies on the theory that drivers drive more slowly if their side views are restricted. Since March, villagers in Martham, near Great Yarmouth, Mundesley, Overstrand and Horstead, in north Norfolk, have seen extra foliage by the roads into the communities.

And in April last year the persuasive powers of children were employed to convince their parents to stop speeding in villages in north Norfolk.

County Hall's Caring About Rural Speeds (Cars) scheme saw children create stickers and signs and given extra lessons in why speeding is a problem, to feed back to their parents.

Adrian Gunson, Norfolk's cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: "There is a problem with speed, but I doubt people do speed that high through a lot of Norfolk villages because you don't get fast, straight roads; there are lots of twists and turns.

"Norfolk is in the forefront of attempts to reduce accidents. Speed is a factor in causing accidents, but by no means the only one - there's also experience and driving conditions."