One of the important parts of Suffolk’s Police and Crime Plan revolves around roads policing and how we make can our roads safer.
The A11 and A14 are major national and international arteries in the county and have a huge influence on the UK’s economic performance as they serve some of the most important ports in the country - Lowestoft as an ancient fishing port and now a vital facility for the off shore energy industry; Felixstowe the largest container port in the country and Ipswich the biggest port for exporting grain across the globe. This is why soon after I was elected I took the decision to make new investment in the Constabulary’s roads policing unit to support economic development and growth in the county.
I was delighted that the remaining part of the A11 dual carriageway was completed between Mildenhall and Thetford last year. An improved road network in Suffolk is vital for us locally and the whole of the UK as good roads are essential for our future – they are the lifeblood of the economy.
You might be interested to see the comparison from March 2013 on the strength of roads policing fleet for Suffolk and Norfolk with the current fleet in 2015:
Armed response (ARVs): 2013 - 13; 2015 - 20
Motorcycles: 2013 - 20; 2015 - 27
4X4: 2013 - 3; 2015 - 3
Traffic cars: 2013 - 30; 2015 - 29
Others: 2013 - 8; 2015 - 4
The total units increased from 74 in 2013 to 83 in 2015 and we’ve also invested in a new 4 x 4 Land Rover, based at Martlesham, dedicated to keeping the traffic flowing on all our main roads as necessary. The Discovery’s work has included towing away many cars, vans and trucks involved in collisions. One of our police drivers said “There have been many examples when the Discovery has been a real asset to us. It is the choice vehicle to tow obstructions away.”
Some of the areas I am currently considering with the Chief Constable are improved workshop and fleet maintenance facilities in Bury St Edmunds to serve the west of Suffolk. In my opinion it would be better to locate the garage and workshop facilities nearer to the A14 rather than in the middle of Bury St Edmunds. We could improve operational efficiency and road safety, through better use of our assets. I have also asked the Chief Constable to assess the operational requirement for an additional 4x4 capability based at Bury to match the new roads policing resource at Martlesham for the eastern end of the A14. I am fully prepared to commit extra public resources if this can be shown to support economic growth in the county.
I was delighted to receive funding from the Road Haulage Association last year for tachograph analysis equipment, which can be used on the roadside to ensure commercial vehicles are fully compliant with the law. This is being used in the county for an immediate response to HGV issues.
The Armed Response Vehicles’ range of work has grown recently. All armed response officers are able to act as first responders for medical and other emergencies as well as the normal road safety functions and pursuit of criminals. All of Suffolk’s roads policing fleet have the latest Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system, which is particularly useful for identifying vehicles (including commercial vehicles) that are not taxed and insured and can identify vehicles linked with criminal activity.
As you’ll see, over the past two years we’ve increased the motorcycle fleet from 20 to 27. Police motorcycles are particularly useful for enforcing responsible and safe riding including speeding. They are a wonderful resource for getting through traffic jams quickly to attend accidents, escort abnormal loads and royal protection duties.
Road safety is not the sole responsibility of the Constabulary. As drivers we all need to take responsibility for our actions, as the majority of collisions are caused by poor driving. The “fatal four” are regularly publicised (speeding, drunk driving, not using seat belts, mobile phone use) to remind drivers that this sort of behaviour is remarkably selfish and cavalier and simply unacceptable. Whilst it is extremely gratifying that the numbers of killed and seriously injured road casualties has reduced by two thirds from 715 in 1991 to 241 in 2014 it is very sad that 30 people lost their lives in Suffolk on the roads last year, so we still have a significant room for improvement. We need to remember every serious or fatal collision represents a personal tragedy for the individual, their families and friends.
The two main subjects that arise at nearly all my public meetings are speeding and using mobile phones whilst driving. There is a new approach to speeding enforcement being used by the Constabulary following our comprehensive speeding survey undertaken in 2013. If you have an issue with speeding in your area you should speak to your local safer neighbourhood team. You can contact them via the Constabulary’s website: www.suffolk.police.uk/saferneighbourhood.aspx
Please remember speed limits are there for a reason and should be observed and there is no excuse for using a mobile phone when driving. Sometimes we forget that driving any vehicle or motorcycle means you are in charge of a potentially lethal weapon. We must foster a much better driver culture so we are all kept safer on the roads. Stiffer penalties are needed to stop the mindless idiots who think they have the right to drive at high speeds and those caught operating lap-tops or reading newspapers whilst driving. We need to make sure this behaviour becomes as socially unacceptable as drink driving.
To conclude let’s all try to ensure that all of us who drive have a responsibility to drive carefully on our roads and maintain Suffolk’s reputation as one of the safest areas to travel in.
-- Tim Passmore is Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner