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The Road Supervisor Process.
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Introduction.
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In Britain... the great emphasise at the moment is on exceeding speed limits.  While defending their decision to increase Fines from 1 million to 2 million plus per year, Police recently claimed that there were about 10 million incidents of speeding on our roads every single day: [approx 3.65 billion per year] so 2 million Fines was actually a very small number.  So, the question is... are they booking the worst incidents of speeding? or are they just booking drivers in such a random, haphazard way that almost anyone could be booked for speeding, however safely they may be driving?
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At 10 million incidents a day, if you booked everyone for everything, virtually the entire population would be banned from the roads within two weeks.  If drivers come to think of being caught for speeding as... 'just bad luck'... then they are unlikely to make any real changes to the way they drive... and at present that isn't an entirely unrealistic point of view!
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To look at it in another way... with an annual death rate of about 3200 and about 3.65 billion incidents of speeding... that would mean, very roughly... 1 death for every 1 million speeding offences.  As the Authorities say that about one third of accidents are 'speed related', that means there is more like 1 death for every 3 million incidents of speeding.  A fair number of those accidents termed 'speed related', include vehicles which were not actually exceeding the speed limit, but were going too fast for the conditions... or they combined the speed with some other high-risk behaviour... like tailgating... or a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre.  So, in fact the real figure may be nearer 1 death for every 4 or 5 million incidents of drivers just 'Exceeding a Speed Limit'.  Is it any wonder that so many people simply refuse to accept the argument that "every time they exceed a speed limit they are putting lives at risk"?
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Take a look at the Process... of Road Safety strategies as they work in practice at present... and how it could be done in the future... concentrating on one type of offence at one particular location... say, a speeding car near a school.  Of course it isn't just speeding drivers that put children at risk... there may be other very risky practices by parents themselves... creating danger by simply stopping in the wrong places... but for the purposes of this exercise we will just concentrate on this single issue.    
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At present... if you have a speeding vehicle near a school... putting lives at risk... there is almost nothing that can or will be done about it... unless there is a Policeman on the spot: [first sight of a Police car and they will probably slow down but revert to their high-risk behaviour as soon as they are out of sight... and Police resources are very limited so they cannot possibly be everywhere at once]  Or there is an accident... in which case you have already failed to a large degree because you need to identify these 'high-risk' individuals before the accident happens and start changing their behaviour.  
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This brings us to our present situation... the wide spread introduction of the 'Speed Camera'.  You would expect that if you had two groups of intelligent people that were both committed to Road Safety there would be a general agreement about introducing such things, but there isn't... they will often take completely opposite views... and when you look at the issues, it's not that hard to understand why. 
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Should there be some degree of tolerance... shown to those individuals who behave in a reckless manner and needlessly put other peoples' lives at risk?  Well, probably not! so if the only thing on offer as a means of slowing them down is a speed camera... then many people will say o.k. let's have them.  [Particularly if someone has been personally affected by such a thing... there isn't going to be a lot of room for compromises.]
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On the other hand... there are those that say that driving is a very complex process and you need to clearly differentiate between safe drivers and unsafe drivers.  Unfortunately, that is the one thing that a speed camera cannot do... make an objective assessment about safety issues.  It is, basically... an 'Idiot Box'... but for the moment, at least, it would appear that it's the idiot box or nothing!
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Matters become ever more complicated... as people delve further into the issues... debating whether the cameras should be concealed... so as to catch drivers... or prominently displayed so as to deter them... or whether Police are motivate by financial incentives... or a true commitment to Road Safety.  The bottom line is... this has already been tried in a number of places... and when used to extreme has proved to be very unpopular with the general law-abiding majority.  Even many people who started out in favour of the cameras: [because they wanted their children protected] turn against them when they themselves are suddenly facing fines and driving bans.  They increasingly come to view themselves as the 'victims' of the Police.
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It is our contention... that these problems could be dealt with much, much better than they are at present.  That a significant reduction in road accidents is a real possibility... but, you will have to approach the problem in a radically different way.  Just... changing the odd law: increasing fines: concentrating on single issues: trying to use technology in a simplistic way in order to solve complex problems: or anything similar... will not make much of an impression.  [You can check out all the latest equipment... Sat-Nav: Radar Detectors: Speed Camera Detectors: etc. at the following sites...
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Speedtraps UK. RoadPilot. Snooper. Road Angel GPS.
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Road Safety needs to be an integral part of the system, from start to finish... and it needs to involve people... lots and lots of people!  People may be our biggest problem... but they are also our greatest asset!!  They have a depth of knowledge and understanding that no 'idiot box' could even start to replicate... and it is this asset that we need to utilise.
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So... let's take a detailed look at how we might change the behaviour of many individuals... in big or small ways... as they relate to this one issue.
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The Present.
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Police would say... there should be zero tolerance shown to those drivers who are speeding past a school even by 1mph and therefore any speed cameras should be set with a minimum of leeway... being triggered at 35 or even 33mph in a 30 zone... because these speeds would clearly be dangerous.  But surely, in such cases as the morning school run... if 31mph is unsafe... then 30mph must also be unsafe... you do not go from unsafe driving to safe driving in the range of just 1 or 2 miles per hour.
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So, this would rather beg the question... if a safe speed is more like 20mph or less and 28: 29: or 30mph is unsafe... then how many drivers do the Police book for unsafe driving which is below the posted maximum speed limit.  Invariably... the answer is somewhere between very few and none! 
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So... you have a situation... where there are lots of kids about... drivers are going to fast... putting them at risk... and nothing is done about it.  However... a driver who goes past in the early hours of the morning doing 40mph... who is putting no one at risk... is going to get a ticket.  This is the basic weakness of the system... it's no good just punishing drivers after they have caused an accident... you need to identify them before it happens... and start changing their behaviour.
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This system is just too haphazard... in far to many cases those who are driving safely are getting fined... and those who are driving dangerously are getting away with it.  You don't change one person's behaviour by hitting someone else with a big stick... you have to identify the right person... and you have to ensure that they change or improve in very specific ways.  It isn't easy... but it could be done.
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Empowering. 
Under the present system... no one, except the Police has any power at all.  As a parent you can watch a driver putting your children at serious risk... driving with complete disregard for anyone and there's, pretty much, nothing you can do about it.  Complain to the Police? forget it!  However, become a Road Supervisor and suddenly you would have some power... not a huge amount, but when co-ordinated with other parents and teachers at a school, could make some attempt to deal with your own local problems... reporting anyone who was posing a risk... whether they were exceeding the posted speed limit or not.
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The number of reports you could make would be limited so obviously you would want to target the worst offenders.  This might be done with the help of local Police... borrow a speed gun... take down their details... and at the end of the day... make out the reports for the worst cases.
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Feb 2008.  Four schools in the county of Norfolk... where parent, teachers and pupils have had enough of speeding drivers... are pioneering a scheme with the aid of local police.  Police stop speeding drivers and give them a choice... a 60 fine and 3 points on their licence... or they can just get "told-off" by some of the children from the school.  More take the second choice... and according to the police... being told-off and asked to be more thoughtful in future by the children has a lot more impact than being told-off or fined by the police.  Drivers said they did feel embarrassed and ashamed... and promised to be more careful in future.  A very good example of using "Social Pressure" to change behaviour.
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Motivation.  
At present... few drivers actually drive as if they are trying to be a good example to others... but quite probably would if the issue was brought to the forefront of their minds.  Becoming a Road Supervisor would be a very conscious commitment to Road Safety and to the welfare of others... treating people with courtesy and respect costs nothing... and it encourages others to behave in a similar fashion.  Those just driving past the school would be more likely to consider their speed... both from the perspective of being reported by other Parents/Road Supervisors... and with a view to reporting those that were not behaving in a... Safe: Considerate: and Courteous manner.  A small but general improvement in the behaviour of a significant number of individuals.   
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Deterrent. 
Knowing that there were so many Road Supervisors around would act as a deterrent for some individuals.  Some drivers would respond positively without having to be reported... similarly to the above.  Perhaps they tend to drive a bit to fast and don't give it a lot of thought... but with this system they would be bright enough to foresee the consequences and just give it a little more thought... fine-tune their driving, and be a little more careful.
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Some may be serious offenders who feel like they are in control and don't really care what others think because there is nothing anyone can do about them... they just have to worry about the odd Police car: [one glimpse of them and they instantly slow up] and that's about it.  But, even many of these would be bright enough to realise that under this system their points total would rocket if they were reckless anywhere near a school and so drive in a reasonable manner... which is all that is required... changes in behaviour to a lesser or greater degree... of a large number of people.
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Motivation and Deterrent... are like the flip sides of the same coin.  Generally... Motivation brings about a voluntarily improvement in good behaviour... while a Deterrent brings about an involuntary improvement in bad behaviour.  With this kind of system 'Speeding past a School' would probably get you reported quicker than any other type of behaviour.  Many drivers would instantly realise the consequences of this new system and adjust their behaviour accordingly: [especially if they also displayed warning signs and had some people wearing fluorescent jackets.]
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Education.
Under the present system there is very little opportunity to 'educate' drivers.  Those who had driven excessively fast past the same school every morning for years may be quite oblivious to the fact that others find their behaviour unacceptable.  With this system it would be brought to their attention very quickly.  They won't necessarily agree with a report... but if they get another one, then another, and another, all for similar offences... plus educational inserts... and perhaps even a warning letter from the Police... then eventually, the penny will drop, and they will make a few changes... even if they do it reluctantly... or just because it is in their own self interest to do so.  But again... the system would have brought about some change in the behaviour of a driver... where before, there would have been none.
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Social Pressure.
Pressure can be exerted by anyone who is in a position of influence.  For instance... if you are an employer and you have a particular employee who is driving inappropriately fast near a school on a regular basis... the chances are you will know absolutely nothing about it.  If you don't know about it then obviously you're not going to be in a position to do anything about it.  With this system... whether you were an employer or a parent... you could find out about it very quickly... and the first stage would just be to have a word with them and ask them to slow down.  If that didn't work... more reports would come in... and it might be necessary to be a bit more forceful in the approach... and maybe even threaten to sack an employee if they did not change their ways.  So, they either slow down... or they get sacked... either way, they won't be speeding past the school any more. 
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Enforcement.
Anything along the lines of 'enforcement' will usually only come into being after a driver has committed and been convicted of a fairly serious offence... which may be a bit late.  You can send drivers on compulsory re-education courses... but, as we have pointed out in other places... if you know little or nothing about a driver before you send them on a course... you don't really know if the course is appropriate to their problems... and once they finish the course... you really have no way of making sure that they have changed their behaviour.  They could finish a course and the very next day be speeding past the same school again.  
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By contrast... with this system there could be a great deal of robust action being taken... where at present there is none!  Drivers could find themselves appearing before a Review Panel without ever having faced a Court... they could be rigorously questioned about their behaviour.  If they were sent on a course the Panel could be sure it was an appropriate course... and the course instructor would be more effective because they would have specific details available about all attendees.  If they continued with their old patterns of behaviour they would quickly be called to reappear before the Review Panel who would take ever more drastic steps to ensure their behaviour was brought under control.  Their message would be clear... this individual's behaviour is unacceptable and one way or another it is going to be brought to an end... change and improve or be removed from the road... the only choices on offer.  
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You shouldn't have to wait... until someone gets killed or seriously injured before you start taking decisive action! driving a vehicle is not just a 'Right'... it is also a 'Responsibility'!!
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Punishment.
If the worst comes to the worst and someone is killed or seriously injured it can be very difficult to determine whether something was a 'genuine accident' or whether it was the inevitable result of reckless behaviour which had been going on for some time.  But, if a driver did run over a child outside a school... and they had been reported on a number of occasions for using excessive speed in similar circumstances... then a Court might draw its own conclusions from this... and show little leniency.  Perhaps this prospect alone might encourage some to curb the worst excesses of their own behaviour.  
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[May 2003... Click Here to read a newspaper article which demonstrates exactly what we are talking about.]
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Interception. 
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Again... at present this is not something drivers particularly have to worry about... however bad their driving.  With this system a 'Senior' Road Supervisor could call the Police on a mobile about any extreme incidents and ask for a vehicle to be intercepted and dealt with immediately.  If the vehicle had been 'flagged' on the computer as being registered at the wrong address: [or 'flagged' for any number of other reasons] then Police could target them as a priority.
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At present there could well be a Police car parked a mile down the road completely oblivious to the fact that a fairly serious incident had just taken place... but using modern communications and experienced drivers... would help the Police to target offenders in a much more effective way.  Anyone driving one of these vehicles: [unregistered: unroadworthy: untaxed: uninsured: stolen: used for criminal purposes: etc. etc.] would at least have to be extra cautious so as to avoid being reported: [and then having their vehicle 'flagged'] or 'Intercepted'... whereas at present these people tend to be some of the most reckless because they think the authorities will never catch up with them.
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[Read... Village Vigilantes go for their Speed Guns.  About a scheme that allows villagers to catch speeding motorists which is spreading rapidly across the country.]
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Database.
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This system would also supply a very large Database for Police to tap into.  Apart from the general reports it could also give information about Accidents... Incidents... and any Suspicious vehicles.  If drivers think there is a very good chance of them getting caught out and heavily fined they are far more likely to make sure that all their documentation is in order.  If it is, they are less likely to behave in a reckless manner or to try and flee the scene after an accident has happened.  Those who don't have their documentation in order will at least try to keep a low profile to avoid being intercepted.  
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The present situation... [in Britain at least] is that the number of vehicles who do not have their documents in order has been steadily rising... now about 5% of the total.  The reasons for this are obvious... they are very unlikely to be caught out... and if they do end up in Court for say, no insurance... the fine they get would only be a fraction of the cost of the insurance they would have had to pay anyway.  Others who do not register their vehicles at the correct address can park where they like: go through as many speed cameras as they like: can ignore any driving ban: don't have to worry about Tax: keeping the vehicle roadworthy: etc. etc. the benefits are many!   
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These are some of the worst offenders on the road... many being illegal immigrants who have never even passed a driving test... and they are the people most likely to get away with their criminal behaviour.  The blame for this can be fairly laid at the door of Politicians... it is a situation created entirely by them... if they are so committed to Road Safety they should start by putting their own house in order!!
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Reporting Black Spots.
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Once you've collected millions of individual reports it would be possible to retrieve many small pieces of information from the system and see distinctive patterns emerge.  It should be possible to look at a road/street map on a screen and see clusters of dots: [each one representing a report] punch in such things as weather: time of day: day of the week: etc and different patterns should emerge.  
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Any concentration of dots... whether it is at a motorway exit: a junction in a city: or in our example, around one particular school... would indicate that there is some sort of 'structural' problem that in contributing to this area of conflict: [Reporting Black Spot.]  Dot clusters would identify areas in need of attention.  The authorities could then look at the reports in more detail... visit the area in question... see the problems first hand... and discuss any possible changes with local people at a Road Supervisors Branch Meeting.  [Or indeed the issue may have already been raised and brought to their attention by local residents.]  If even more information was required the Authorities could send out a questionnaire to those drivers reported in order to get some feedback, from their perspective. 
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As in our example... perhaps the solution lies in some structural changes to the road environment... like making the road wider: making it narrower: making a pull-in for stopping cars: a pedestrian crossing: a one-way system around the block: etc. etc. etc.  At present there are many such problems which continue year after year after year and nothing is ever done about them... but there should be a mechanism whereby local residents can easily bring these problems to the attention of the authorities... but again, it means you have to 'empower' people.
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The Bottom Line is...
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Road Safety is a very complex issue requiring an equally complex solution... accident rates vary a great deal between one country and the next... and there is no single easy answer to explain these differences.  To use our example... excessive speed past a school... it is the one thing that a speed camera can do... but the reality is... it can't even do that very well.  As for all the other multitude of offences and general bad behaviour which need addressing... a speed camera has absolutely nothing to contribute... they may have a limited roll to play within a larger strategy but they are certainly not worthy of having an entire Road Safety strategy bestowed upon them.  
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Changing an entire Road Culture and creating a safer environment means tackling the problems from many different angles... giving many, many people the opportunity to participate in a pro-active way... and dealing with every aspect of road use.  One simple piece of technology concentrating on one single issue is going to achieve almost nothing.
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It is our belief... that the Road Safety issue could be dealt with far more effectively than it is at present by developing a sophisticated Information based system of law enforcement which uses modern technology to harness the skills: knowledge: and experience: of those people who use the road network on a daily basis.  
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Comment...  Of course, all these basic ideas could be refined: developed: and further improved: and we're looking for your assistance in this task.  So, whatever you think about these issues, good or bad, we would like to hear your opinions: comments: and ideas.  Either e-mail them to us direct... or fill in a Feedback Form.  More generally... if this sounds like a Project you would be interested in becoming involved with have a look at our 'Help us' section for details.
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