Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Nottingham City Council (RTS 09)



  The City of Nottingham has a population of 280,000 people living in an urban environment. It is a vibrant commercial centre and has a transport network which reflects its strategic importance in the East Midlands. Vehicle speeds on the network are frequently above the legal limits, and often inappropriately high for the nature of the environment the drivers encounter. This has resulted in the City Council taking action to deter speeding where there is evidence that excessive speed is resulting in personal injury casualties. Traffic calming, Home Zones, and Safer Routes to School projects have been used to reduce vehicle speeds in residential areas. Digital speed cameras and mobile speed cameras have been used on the strategic routes. This work is supported through road safety education and evaluated through detailed monitoring. The work is also undertaken in partnership with Nottinghamshire Police, Nottinghamshire Magistrates Courts Service, The Highways Agency and Nottinghamshire Area Health Authority. For this reason the City Council feels it is in an ideal position to contribute to the House of Commons Select Committee.


  In March 2000 the DETR completed a review of policy and published New Directions in Speed Management. This document continued to support the general view that a 1 mph speed reduction will result in a 5 per cent reduction in casualties. This relationship has been repeatedly confirmed with the introduction of traffic calming in Nottingham. A recent review has demonstrated the following speed reductions and casualty savings using data amalgamated from 44 local safety schemes:

Type of Traffic Calming
Mean Speed in MPH BeforeAfter
Per cent Reduction in
Round Top Road Humps (18 schemes)
51 per cent
1.9 m square Cushions (19 schemes)
61 per cent
8 m Plateau (7 schemes)
64 per cent

  Monitoring has shown that daytime noise levels are reduced, ground borne vibration has never been sufficient to cause any damage to property, pollution effects have been minimal and the features do not cause damage to well maintained vehicles driven over them at appropriate speeds. However, it should be noted that traffic calming is still unpopular with some motorists. The Fire Service, Ambulance Service and Bus operators will only support the use of cushions on the strategic emergency routes and bus routes. However, because of the casualty savings that can be achieved from traffic calming, for a relatively modest cost, it will continue to be used in Nottingham.

  In April 2001 Nottingham became one of the 8 pilot areas to introduce "netting off". This is a process whereby revenue from paid fixed penalty notices can be used to purchase equipment and fund increased enforcement on routes identified because of their high casualty levels. This project has had a dramatic effect on vehicle speeds and casualties on the targeted routes. There has also been a significant reduction in fatal and serious casualties across the City as a whole. Appendix 2 shows the casualty savings that have been achieved, and a more detailed report on the project is available from the City Council.


  After crime, the speed of traffic was the second most mentioned concern of residents when they were surveyed in a City Council opinion poll. Speeding traffic is also one of the most frequently mentioned topics in letters to the Traffic Management Service Area. With the introduction of the "netting off" process it was necessary to closely monitor the public opinion of residents as the levels of speed enforcement were increased in the City. Appendix 1 contains the results of the first opinion survey. The survey indicates strong local support for action to deter speeding and demonstrates an increasing awareness of the relationship between vehicle speeds and casualties. A second survey has been commissioned, and the results from this will be analysed in January 2002.


  Nottingham has introduced an integrated approach to speed management, using education, engineering and enforcement in a complimentary manner. In discussions about dealing with vehicle speeds, the public often polarise to a single view, eg "the Police should clamp down on speeding", or "the council should spend more time on education rather than penalising the innocent motorist". These views fail to take account of the fact that any open approach on its own is doomed to failure. For example, the City Council and its partners could not deal with speeding in residential areas through the use of enforcement, digital cameras or education. Because of the lack of Police resources, and the high cost of cameras, self-enforcing traffic calming is the only viable option. Education in these situations can help to improve the attitude of the public and it makes the measures more acceptable. However, education won't work on its own because motorists continue to speed despite extensive publicity. In very specific situations publicity and education has had a short-term effect on vehicle speeds, as is the case with "check speed 30" signs. However, a sustainable speed reduction is dependent on engineering and enforcement.

  It is equally true state that any speed management strategy will not work unless all the elements are brought together in a partnership embracing the Highway Authority, the Police, the Magistrates Courts Service, the Highways Agency and the Area Health Authority. This is true irrespective of whether an area is participating in the 'netting off' project or not. Without this approach it is all too easy for organisations to see speeding problems as someone else's responsibility. In the Nottinghamshire County Council area for example, speeding motorists are very strongly seen as a matter for the Police to deal with. This has led them away from participating in the "netting off" despite the obvious casualty saving benefits.


  The Government has made an excellent start in promoting a coherent speed management policy through the publication of the DETR review. Also, the "netting off" process has given partnership areas the chance to make a stepwise reduction in casualties with the speed offenders paying for the safety improvements. However, there is considerable room for improvement as follows:

    —  Driver Education—Speeding motorists are currently excluded from the National Driver Improvement Scheme in which drivers are referred for training after committing due care and attention offences. The City Council runs training under this scheme and would welcome the opportunity to run specific courses for speeding motorists.

    —  Home Office Type Approval—Manufacturers of speed enforcement equipment are hindered and deterred by the long delays that occur in obtaining Home Office approval. This is not to question the need for the process, just that it should be sped up. Nottingham operates the worlds first digital camera system that measures average speeds by reading number plates at different locations and calculating vehicle journey times. The operation of the system is bound up with so much government red tape that its full potential cannot at present be realised. For example, the computers that manage the system must be placed at the roadside rather than in police stations. This is supposedly because 'the pubic won't accept remote enforcement'. However, the City does just that with CCTV and there are no technical reason why the computers can't be housed in police stations where the data is more secure. Also, the computers can manage up to six pairs of cameras but are only approved to monitor one.

    —  Knee Jerk Responses to Press Articles—Some of the national papers can be hostile to speed enforcement, speed cameras and traffic calming. It is essential that these activities are evaluated in terms of their effectiveness, and not what a reporter, who has often done little or no research, thinks of them. In a recent Guardian article for example, a reporter claimed that we had taken out some of our cameras because they were "not making the revenue expected". To be fair to the Guardian it subsequently retracted the article when the inaccuracies were pointed out. In fact the City is installing more cameras at the moment, not to make money, but to save casualties. If all the drivers complied with speed limits then there would be no revenue from "netting off". However, in this unlikely scenario the casualty savings would be enormous, as would the financial savings from the reduced levels of hospital treatment, lost income, vehicle damage, property damage, emergency service costs, and costs associated with pain grief and suffering.

    —  Overt Versus Covert Operations—In December 2001 the Government instructed all police forces to make speed enforcement operations as overt as possible. This included requirements to paint all camera housings bright yellow and to sign all the approaches to a speed camera length. This is directly opposite to the approach taken by the Victoria Project in Australia. After 10 years of intensified speed enforcement the Australians have switched to highly covert operations. This was because drivers were only complying with speed limits in the presence of cameras. In all other locations speeding vehicles continued to be a problem. We would strongly advise the Government to learn from the Australian experience. There needs to be some covert speed enforcement to ensure that speeding does not go unabated on roads where there are no cameras. These roads are often the quieter residential areas in the City. The recent Government approach could be compared to instructing undercover drug squad officers to always wear a visible police badge.

    —  Speed Regulation—Preliminary research has already indicated the casualty savings that could be achieved by vehicle speed governors. Whilst they may be unpopular to the public at present, the Government should continue to support the research which will facilitate their future implementation. Over the next 10 years the aim should be to make speeding as socially unacceptable as drink driving. This change of attitude would facilitate the introduction of speed governors to all new vehicles, thereby reducing the need for traffic calming, enforcement and speed cameras.

    —  Police Resources—The police have limited resources and the allocation to the enforcement of traffic offences is often cut in an attempt to deal with what the public see as more pressing problem such as crime. This process devalues the seriousness of traffic offences, and exposes society to falling standards in driver behaviour. Staffing guidelines should be set for all Police Authorities so that traffic policing is not reduced to unacceptable levels.

    —  Motor Vehicle Advertising—Motor manufacturers still place emphasis upon vehicle speed and performance in their advertising. There is scope for increased regulation in this respect.

  Contact Details—Dr Stewart Thompson, Road Safety Service Manager

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