Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Menace of Speeding on our Streets

UPDATE: 28 August 2016

On Wednesday of this week, the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Breakfast Show covered the issue of drifting in Orton Southgate and invited myself, a City Councillor, a Cambs Police Sergeant and a Peterborough City Council Director to respond to residents' concerns. A number of residents were also invited to express their point of view, as were two young men who enjoy the pastime of drifting elsewhere in the county.

The piece came about after BBC Radio Cambs presenter Dotty McLeod read about the problem right here on this blog.

I have posted a full transcript of the broadcast here.

In summary, Cambridgeshire Police has apologised to residents of Orton Goldhay and confirmed that the police share the responsibility of addressing the drifting in Orton Southgate, while Peterborough City Council referred via a statement to measures that will shortly be put in place with the cooperation of the land owner to ensure that residents' sleepless nights are a thing of the past.

I would like to thank BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Dotty McLeod and her team for picking up this issue so enthusiastically on residents' behalf. I would also like to thank both Sgt Nikki Hall of Cambs Police and Adrian Chapman of Peterborough City Council for their robust response to residents' concerns.

Last night was the first quiet Saturday night residents of Orton Goldhay have been able to enjoy in a very long time. Thanks to the support of BBC Radio Cambs and the response of Cambs Police and Peterborough City Council we hope that peace will soon be restored on a permanent basis, and that the people who enjoy doing and watching the drifting will have a place to do it away from people's homes where they can enjoy their pastime safely and without bringing stress to people who live here.

Julie Howell, Peterborough Green Party, 28th August 2016

The Menace of Speeding on our Streets

I'm writing this with wet eyes, having just watched Sophie Morgan's powerful 2013 documentary 'License to Kill'. If you think you know that speeding is dangerous, why it happens and what should be done about it, I ask you to please watch Sophie's documentary anyway. Sophie adds a much needed fresh voice to the conversation about speeding. It's the voice of a young woman driver who drove without care when she was inexperienced. 18-year-old Sophie lacked the skills and understanding to handle her car at a high speed. As a consequence, Sophie's car crashed, and after weeks in a coma she awoke to be told she had lost her ability to walk for life.

Sophie's powerful story isn't a simple moral tale about the consequences of driving too fast for thrills. From her perspective, she is able to explain why she did what she did the night of her accident, and what she believes needs to be done to prevent more young people from causing accidents that result in serious injury or loss of life.

Sophie's documentary, highlights the dangers posed by newly qualified drivers. But what about drivers with 10, 20 or even 30 years of driving experience who pose grave danger to people, pets and property by driving too fast and too carelessly along our residential streets? These are the drivers who feel safe in their powerful cars and safe in the knowledge that their experience will protect them from having an accident.

I receive more emails and phone calls from residents about speeding than I do about any other issue. 

The emails and phone calls fall into two categories.

The first is the careless driving and speeding that happens along Wistow Way, Goldhay Way, Brimbles Way, Dunblane Drive, Loch Lomond Way, at the junction between Cherry Orton Road and Oundle Road, and just about any residential street you care to mention. It isn't just young people in souped-up cars, showing off. It's every kind of driver, driving too fast, making the roads dangerous for everyone. (I wrote an article earlier in the year about the death of a cat in the cul-de-sac where I live.)

Twenty's Plenty

Peterborough Green Party supports a national campaign called 'Twenty's Plenty', which calls for speed restrictions of 20mph in some residential streets. 

We recently wrote an article for the Peterborough Telegraph to explain why 20mph can save lives. I've pasted the text of the article below in case you missed it.

Article from Peterborough Telegraph

We need to change our attitude towards speeding. Why 20 is plenty.

Have you witnessed ‘near misses’ on the residential streets where you live? Have you heard that yet another beloved family cat has been crushed to death under the wheels of a car? Are you worried that your child isn’t safe on the streets near their school because of speeding motorists?
Let’s be honest. Have you ever driven faster than 30mph in a residential street? Do you believe that because you’re an experienced driver you are able to take the same remedial action to prevent an accident, whether you’re driving at 40mph, 30mph or 20mph?
If you do, you’re wrong about that.

You may believe that you are a careful driver, but if a pedestrian steps out in front of you when you’re doing 40mph it is five times more likely that your car will kill them than if you’re doing 30mph.

The 30mph speed limit for residential roads was introduced in 1934. A lot has changed since then, including the type, size and capabilities of the cars on our streets. Car technology has improved greatly, making driving much safer for the person behind the wheel. Human technology hasn’t advanced at quite the same pace, meaning pedestrians have become more vulnerable as drivers have become safer.

30mph is safer than 40mph but it is not as safe at 20mph. When it comes to driving on residential streets we believe that 20mph is plenty.

Driving at 30mph rather than 20mph increases stopping distances by 134%. This isn’t due to your skills as a driver. The fact is, a car braking from 30mph will still be travelling at 22mph when a car travelling at 20mph will have stopped. In some situations, that’s the difference between life and death.

If your car hits a pedestrian hit at 20mph they have a 95% chance of survival. This reduces to 80% at 30mph. At 40mph the chance of a fatality is 90%.

20's plenty road sign

Reducing your speed to 20mph has many immediate benefits. Traffic noise and pollution will decrease. Walking and cycling will increase as safety perception improves. In Hull, child pedestrian casualties dropped by 74% when widespread 20mph limits were introduced.

Peterborough Green Party ran a petition recently in West Ward where residents have suffered from speeding problems along Mayors Walk and Aldermans Drive. The petition – which received considerable support from residents - was rejected by Peterborough City Council on the grounds that there is currently insufficient evidence that 20mph limits are effective. We dispute this and are campaigning for PCC to reconsider its position in the face of the overwhelming societal benefits that 20mph can bring with safer, healthier residential streets for people, pets, property and wildlife too.

We want drivers to think again about the risks of driving at more than 20mph in residential areas. This is not a draconian measure to bring the city to a grinding halt. It is a public safety message that could help Peterborough’s residents to re-claim our residential streets as safer places to be. 

'Car Cruises' & Noise

Speeding and dangerous driving is causing other harm to our environment and huge distress to residents in some areas of our ward, in particular, to people living in houses in Orton Goldhay close to Orton Parkway. On the other side of Orton Parkway, lies the Orton Southgate industrial estate. On late evenings throughout the summer, roads on the industrial estate are being used for unauthorised 'car cruises' of the type Sophie highlights in her documentary. 

People right across Peterborough are aware with the dangers of these unauthorised and un-stewarded events. On 8 August 2015, several spectators were badly injured when an inexperienced driver attempted a manoeuvre that resulted in him ploughing his car into a group of bystanders. I've seen footage of the accident. It is horrific. The driver - who is from Stamford - is currently serving a prison sentence for what he did that night. The injuries and the trauma will be with the people he hurt for life. Read more about this incident.

Article from Peterborough Telegraph

Anxiety and distress

You don't have to hit people with your car to cause immense anxiety and distress to them. Residents who live in earshot of Stapledon Road, Orton Southgate (who live across the Orton Parkway in Orton Goldhay) tell me that their lives are being made a misery by the noise from screeching tyres that can start as early as 8pm and finish as late as 3am almost every night through the summer months, as the motorists who attend the unauthorised car cruise meets attempt to 'drift' their cars around roundabouts. 

Stress and lack of sleep can have serious, long-term effects on people's health. I'm told that residents are unable to open their windows on hot summer nights because of the noise, children cannot get to sleep, people who have to leave for work early the next day are exhausted and everyone affected is stressed and anxious from the moment the screeching of tyres begins.

While some people are of the opinion that the people taking part in the car cruises are only a danger to themselves, this just isn't case. And it's not fair. The noise is causing real human suffering.

Call 101

If you are affected by the noise created by the car cruise, please call the police on 101. When you do, please remember to get an incident number from the call operator. The more times the matter is reported, the more likely the police are to prioritise your concern. Peterborough Green Party has written to the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire asking for action to be taken.

While we completely understand that it is far safer for drivers and the public that these events happen on industrial estates rather than on public roads (though, of course, roads on industrial estates are also public roads, just less busy on weekend evenings apart from lorries making deliveries), the noise nuisance is very harmful and it would be better for everyone if these events happened well away from residential areas.

Residents should also call 101, the police non-emergency number, to report other incidences of dangerous driving. 

I know how much speeding cars worry you because you tell me all the time. I would be very interested to hear what you think about 20mph limits, traffic calming measures and speed cameras. What do you think is the solution to speeding on our streets? 


  1. Excellent piece Julie, totally agree. And people do not realise how insignificant the time saving gains are by driving over the limit. I frequently notice that I catch up, with the motorist who has just overtaken me, at the next junction or roundabout.

    1. Thanks Colin. Yes, I think the perception of 20mph concerns people more as an idea that it would if it were trialled in reality. All drivers seem to think the problem is not them, yet accidents and pet deaths continue to happen on our residential streets. The idea is not to enforce 20mph, but to encourage drivers to thing and to realise that 20-30 is the best speed in residential areas. As you say, driving faster rarely pays a dividend.