23 November 2012

Focus on... Speed Watch and Specials

At Kent Police, we take the issue of speeding motorists very seriously. Where there is a problem, our officers work around the clock to educate and inform people driving inappropriately, to ensure all road users stay safe.

Local people can get involved in deterring and educating motorists who travel through their community, by volunteering as part of the Speed Watch scheme.
On Thursday there was a Speed Watch all out day, the first of its kind across Kent.

A day in the life of…

Malcolm Buller
Local resident and Staplehurst Speed Watch team leader

'I’ve been involved in Speed Watch since it started nearly six years ago and run the Staplehurst Speed Watch team which has operated for more than five years.

Staplehurst is a large parish so has 10 Speed Watch sites which have been approved for us to use by the police. Safety of both the Speed Watch volunteers and motorists is very important so the sites have to be checked to make sure we’re not causing a hazard or likely to get hurt.

During a Speed Watch, we’ll use the electronic board and scanner to monitor speeds and then take a note of vehicles travelling over nationally-recommended speed thresholds. At our most recent Speed Watch, we recorded 34 speeding vehicles in two-and-a-half hours. We noted one driver travelling at 51 miles per hour through the 30 mile an hour zone!

Vehicle details are then added to a central database and Kent Police send warning letters to repeat offenders.

Today we’ve had Specials Inspector Derek May with us, issuing tickets to motorists he measured speeding.
As well as helping to deter speeding, we’re also a visible presence in the community. We had a local resident stop today to say what a good idea Speed Watch in their community is.

Check out pictures from the day on the Kent Police Flickr site.

Guy Rollinson
Speed Watch co-ordinator for Kent Police

‘Speed Watch really helps to educate drivers about their speed and make our communities safer. Speed Watch allows  residents to accurately establish and then directly have an impact on the severity of speeding on their local roads - a frequent source of complaint in some of our communities.

‘To set up a scheme near you, you only need the support of one other motivated citizen, and access to a speed indication device. This can often by facilitated through a recognised community group such as the local parish council or residents’ association. Typically the Speed Watch schemes each have between five and fifteen active members. Kent has around 70 active Speed Watches and this number is increasing. We risk assess suitable Speed Watch sites nearby and give all volunteers safety awareness training which usually takes about one hour.

'Then it's down to you how often and for how long you are active at the roadside. The owners of vehicles you detect speeding then receive warning letters and advice from Kent Police.

‘You can find out more about Speed Watch on our website.'

Hear more from Guy.

Specials Inspector Derek May
'Longest serving uniformed officer at Kent Police'

‘I’m attached specifically to the Roads Policing Unit and work with our regular colleagues to respond to calls and collisions. I also get involved in dealing with speeding issues. Today I’ve been out with the Speed Watch teams in Larkfield, Staplehurst and Teston.

‘Speed Watch volunteers are helping us identify where speeding is an issue across the county so that my officers and I can patrol key areas and take action against motorists driving illegally.

If you are interested in becoming a Special at Kent Police, find out more on our website.

Steve Horton
Kent County Council

‘Have you been found speeding recently? If so, you might be offered the chance to take part in a speed awareness course instead of paying a fine and getting points.

Run by Kent County Council, the theory-based course is offered to people caught speeding within a certain threshold.

Steve Horton from Kent County Council explains: ‘The course focuses on educating drivers. It’s a chance to challenge people’s habits and give them tools to help them stay within the speed limit in the future.’

Motorists take part in role plays and activities to test their perception of their driving and awareness while on the road.

The course is not a soft option – those caught speeding can only take part in one course every three years. Otherwise they pay the fine and get points. The cost of taking part in the course is more than the fine. Participants must show a positive attitude and willingness to take part during the session otherwise they could still face receiving the fine and points.

Feedback has been really positive and in the past seven months (April to Nov 2012), 18,821 people have taken part in a speed awareness course.’  

Hear more from Steve.

See also:

Don't forget to watch a replay of yesterday's online chat. Inspector Geoff Wood answered your questions about policing on Kent's roads.

ADVICE: Check our our driving and road safety advice on our website.

22 November 2012

Focus on... traffic management

The Traffic Management team provides expert input into consultations on proposed changes to the highway, from new developments to changes in signage and speed limits. We play a big role in the traffic management of some large scale events and also deal with abnormal loads. 

We give advice to Kent County Council Highways and the Highways Agency on road safety issues to ensure the number of collisions goes down. We also ensure the correct regulations exist to allow our colleagues to carry out enforcement.

Following a serious or fatal collision, we will attend the site and look at the road layout and signage to see if improvements can be made to avoid future collisions.

A day in the life of…

Acting Inspector Rob Dell
13 years at Kent Police | Joined the Roads Policing Unit in April this year.

Yesterday, as acting inspector, I attended the morning meeting to brief my officers on the past 24 hours and forthcoming projects for the rest of the week.

I met with an engineering company to discuss ongoing plans for the M25. We continued to look at how the traffic management will be organised to ensure the public and road workers are safe during the works.

Yesterday I visited road work sites in the Ashford and Medway areas to carry out safety checks with KCC Highways and utility companies. I’m checking the works aren’t causing significant congestion or noise to local residents, and checking the workers are operating in a safe environment.

Part of our role is to have an input into the traffic management arrangements for large scale events, where they impact on the public highway, to ensure everyone remains safe on our roads. So yesterday my colleague and I attended a meeting with event organisers to discuss traffic arrangements for the Folkestone Airshow next year. 

Today I’ll be discussing Operation Stack with the Port of Dover, Eurotunnel, the Highways Agency and KCC Highways. These quarterly get togethers ensure everyone knows their responsibilities and gives us a chance to discuss any recent issues. If Stack has been implemented since the last meeting, we’ll debrief that and identify any issues.

In the traffic management Unit, we’re also responsible for dealing with abnormal loads. Probably the largest load we’ve ever escorted was a couple of wind turbines measuring around 35 metres long. You can find out more about abnormal loads on our website.

See also:

Don't forget to watch a replay of yesterday's online chat. Inspector Geoff Wood answered your questions about policing on Kent's roads.

PICS: We've also uploaded some pictures onto our Flickr site this morning which show the uniforms and vehicles officers used to have, back in the day.

ADVICE: Check our our driving and road safety advice on our website. 

21 November 2012

Focus on... commercial vehicle unit

A day in the life of...PC Mark Nott and PC Laura Sloan

PC Mark Nott
16 years at Kent Police, nearly four years in the Commercial Vehicle Unit

Our role is to make sure the lorries, minibuses and vans using our roads are safe and those at the wheel are eligible to drive them. We’ve also recently received a number of reports about skips not being carried safely so have been keeping an eye out for those while on patrol.

When we stop a vehicle, we’re checking it is in a suitable condition to be on our roads and isn’t carrying too much load for example, which can make it dangerous. We also check the driver to make sure he or she has the required documents – insurance, a licence and the relevant categories on their licence for the vehicle they’re driving. We also check they are sticking to their legal requirements in terms of driver hours.

Yesterday Laura and I worked an early turn, 7am to 5pm, and patrolled the M20 around Maidstone. One of the jobs we dealt with yesterday was a yellow Sprinter van which caused us some concerns, so I had the driver follow us to a safe stopping place.

We inspected the van and found it was full of boxes and pulling a trailer which was equally full to bursting. Check out the pictures on our Flickr site.

Laura and I were concerned about the weight of the vehicle so had the driver follow us to a nearby weigh bridge and the vehicle clocked up more than eight tonnes – two tonnes heavier than the maximum load requirement! This clearly makes the vehicle too dangerous to drive as the steering and braking are impaired by the excess weight.

Paperwork I found in the van suggested it was being driven for business use but it had no TACO fitted – a legal requirement for the type of vehicle. I inspected the vehicle further and found a number of the lights on the van and the trailer weren’t working.

PC Laura Sloan
16 years in the police service, nearly four years in the Commercial Vehicle Unit
When we stop vehicles, Mark and I divide up the tasks so while he inspected the van and trailer yesterday, I ran checks on it and it quickly became clear the driver had no insurance, tax or MOT.

Because the driver didn’t have a UK address where we could contact him, we fined him £900 on the spot for the offences. 

We also seized the vehicle because it wasn't insured for the work it was doing and was being used for business purposes. We issued the driver with a vehicle rectification notice for the faulty lights.

As well as our patrols, we run regular operations with other agencies including VOSA, HM Customs and Excise, the Department for Transport and Kent County Council.

In an operation last year, which was the first of its kind for Kent Police, we patrolled the roads of Kent in a lorry, to identify HGV drivers committing offences. We gave out more than £11,000 of fines during the two-week operation, mainly for driving while distracted, driving not in control of the vehicle and for not wearing a seatbelt. Check out our YouTube site to view footage from the operation.

We also visit schools to check the condition of bus and minibus drivers, and educate them on their legal requirements. And we run seminars for business employers on safe driving.

Online chat
Don't forget there's an online chat with officers from the Roads Policing Unit tonight. Log on  between 6 and 7pm to ask any questions about our roles and policing on our roads. It's also a chance to get advice on keeping yourself and your loved ones safe. Select this link to take part or watch the chat from 6pm.

Check our our driving and road safety advice on our website. 

20 November 2012

Focus on... collision investigation

A day in the life of...PC Glen Braidwood and PC David Kirk

PC Glen Braidwood
Senior investigating officer  |  22 years' experience in Roads Policing

As a senior investigating officer (SIO) in the Serious Collision Investigation Unit (SCIU), I attend all fatal and life threatening collisions and incidents where my specialist skills are required to help other officers.

I deal with the ‘people’ side of a collision so when I arrive on scene, I’ll start to identify witnesses and get brief initial statements from everyone - what did they see, where were they when the collision happened, did they see anything leading up to the impact? We can also audio record statements from people later - not having to interrupt their recollections of the incident by pausing to take notes helps get a good account of what they saw.

We also try to identify the drivers involved and run a series of tests on them, including a breath and drugs test, to ensure they are fit and able to drive.

If the collision is fatal, I’ll put one of our family liaison officers in touch with the victim’s family and later on, go to see the relatives to explain how our investigations are going and what they can expect from us.

As SIO, I’m responsible for putting together the case files which outline what happened and support legal proceedings or inquests which I attend to give evidence.

Yesterday, I worked an early turn, 7am to 5pm and prepared for an inquest on Wednesday in relation to a collision which happened in January this year. I’m also attending crown court on Friday to hear the plea of a woman involved in a fatal collision earlier this year so prepared for that by reviewing all the evidence.

PC David Kirk

Forensic collision investigator  |  25 years' police service, 11 years' experience in forensic collision investigation

When I arrive at a scene, I’m looking to capture as much physical evidence as possible to help us explain what happened – this includes tyre marks, vehicle damage and road side damage.

This is our one chance to collect all the forensic evidence we need to help us piece together the cause of the collision. The information we gather supports any future legal proceedings and provides answers to the people and families of those involved. Once we reopen the road, the evidence is lost. So it’s important we get as much information as possible.

The ‘scene’ isn’t just the point of impact. I have to establish what led up to the collision and must take everything into consideration – road surface and weather conditions; the concentration and capabilities of the driver; traffic conditions and roadworthiness of the vehicle.

We have some specialist equipment to help us. Our newest kit is a laser scanner, which surveys a scene and later helps us build up a scale 3D image of a collision site. See our Flickr site for pictures.

Yesterday, I worked a 7am to 5pm shift, based out of Aylesford and finished writing up the report of a recent collision. The report includes details of our investigation at the scene, witness statements and calculations of the speed and stopping distances of the vehicles involved. It then outlines our considerations of what could have caused the collision.

Glen and I were also on call from home between midnight last night and 7am this morning.

How we deal with a serious or fatal collision

To any fatal collision, at least three members of the SCIU will attend - a senior investigating officer, a forensics collision investigator and an investigator.

Dealing with a scene typically comes in three stages.

Rescue phase. When we arrive at a scene, the other emergency services are usually already there, treating the injured and getting them to safety. We support them by putting cordons in place and initially diverting traffic until Kent County Council Highways arrive.

We get statements from witnesses and carry out a series of tests on the drivers to help with our investigation.

In the forensic investigation phase we want to establish what happened pre-impact so examine the vehicles, any damage and all the debris in the field. We’re looking for contact points ie any places the vehicles may have struck such as the central reservation. We’re also looking at the tarmac – often if there’s been a sudden change of speed for example, the tarmac will have been marked. We’ll be looking in close detail at all the vehicles involved – checking tyres and lights and looking at the position of the seats and seat belts.

We carry out house-to-house enquiries and examine CCTV to give us as much information as possible.

In the recovery phase, we clear up the scene so the road can be reopened. If the road surface or barriers need repairing, we hand the scene over to our council Highways colleagues so that the safety of other road users can be maintained.

Our traffic management officer colleagues visit the scene of every fatal collision in the days after to make sure the road is safe and there was nothing in place which may have contributed to the incident.

There’s more on them tomorrow with Sergeant Rob Dell.

19 November 2012

Focus on... response officers in Roads Policing

A day in the life of…

Acting Sergeant Gareth Williams
31 years old  | Joined Roads Policing Unit four years ago

'This weekend, I was on an early turn (6am to 4pm) and a late turn (2pm to midnight). At the start of my shift, I checked over my vehicle and all the equipment we carry to make sure it was in good condition and working order.

'On Saturday, my team attended a number of collisions including at junction 4 on the M25 where some vehicles sustained minor damage. No one was seriously injured so we were able to quickly sort it out and send the drivers on their way. In Horsmonden, response colleagues dealt with an 82-year-old woman who was involved in a collision with two other vehicles but luckily no one sustained serious injuries.

'A tracker was activated on a vehicle, believed to have been stolen so I assisted in the search. Local officers found the car and luckily it turned out to be a false alarm.

'I headed over to Strood after receiving reports of nuisance trail bikes in the area. During my search, I stopped a 23-year-old rider causing a nuisance and issued him with a section 59 warning. This means if we see the vehicle being ridden in an anti-social way again, we can seize it.

'Back on the road, over the radio we received a report of a stolen van in the Medway area so I and three other vehicles attended to conduct an area search. Unfortunately we weren’t able to locate the vehicle but investigations are continuing.

'I was on routine patrols in Swanley when we received a call to go to junction 8 of M20 where some men were believed to be acting suspiciously. We searched them and on inspecting their vehicle, issued them with a vehicle rectification notice. We’d spotted some defects on their vehicle and the notice means they have to get these fixed immediately and inform us within 14 days. If not, the driver faces a court summons.

'The team also dealt with a prisoner, arrested for drink driving the previous night, who was subsequently charged with the offence and could face being disqualified from driving.

'Towards the end of my shift, I headed back to the office to hand over to the late turn sergeant.

'While on Sunday late turn, I received a report from some response officer colleagues that they were on a routine tasking in Medway when they stop checked a motorist, driving with no insurance. Officers seized his vehicle and he received a summons to appear at court. If he wants his vehicle back, the driver must attend his local station with all the required documents and then pay a penalty of at least £150 to the storage facility holding his vehicle. This fee increases every day for two weeks by which time, if the vehicle isn’t claimed, it’s sold.'

PC Chris Godden
29 years old  | Joined the Roads Policing Unit in April 2009.

'I was on early turn on Sunday (6am to 4pm) and while on patrol, came across an abandoned vehicle on A20 in Ryarsh. I carried out checks on the registered owner and found it had been left after a collision the previous night, so I arranged for a relative of the owner to recover the vehicle.

'An hour later, I attended a collision on A21. One vehicle was involved and the driver had to be cut from the vehicle before being taken to hospital. I later returned to the area to assist with traffic management after a second collision occurred in the tail back.

'Over in Sevenoaks, I stopped a car on Poll Hill where the driver was found to be knowingly driving with no insurance. I seized the vehicle and reported the driver for the offence.

'Near the end of my shift, I received a call after an intruder alarm and smoke alarm had been triggered at a commercial property in west Kent. When I got there, Kent Fire and Rescue Service were forcing entry to the property but it appeared to be a false alarm as no fire was found.'

About our Response Officers 
Based in Aylesford, our Roads Policing Unit officers cover the whole county, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in marked and unmarked vehicles.

Response officers patrol and deal with incidents on our major motorways in Kent. They also focus on taskings which means they’ll be deployed to an area to deal with a particular crime type or search for individuals we’re keen to speak to.

They provide vehicle related advice to officers across the county and are all advanced pursuit trained drivers.

The officers also respond to ANPR detections – their in-car equipment alerts them when the automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras are triggered if they detect a vehicle (or driver) we’re interested in.

Our vehicles and equipment
At Kent, our Roads Policing officers typically drive marked BMWs or Volvos - and they have some 4x4s for heavy-duty work!

The vehicles are well kitted out. The mobile terminals mean officer can look up people’s details and check their history while on the road. It is also linked to the ANPR alerts. All newer vehicles have video recording equipment and speed detectors which provide useful evidence, of pursuits in particular. Three speeding motorists were recently identified and prosecuted for speeding at more than 100 miles per hour. Check out the footage on our YouTube page.

The vehicles are also equipped with breath tests, speed guns, stingers and equipment for examining vehicles. They also have defibrillators as officers are often first on the scene of an incident and can give life-saving first aid.

Check out pictures of our vehicles and equipment on our Flickr page.

As well as being advanced-driver trained, our Roads Policing officers have a number of specialisms including:

  • tactical pursuit and containment – this is where officers use their cars to box in an offender’s vehicle to bring them to a stop
  • public order training
  • assessing driver hours, including HGV drivers
  • HGV class 1
  • vehicle examination and prohibition for both light and heavy vehicles