Hamill’s Beat - Are speed cops in a money-making racket?

Here’s a challenge for the PSNI. Most of your speed detections are made where it’s relatively easy to catch speeders. In fact most of your detections are made on the best roads where it’s actually difficult for drivers to keep within the limits. The expression, ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ comes to mind. Couldn’t you take on a more difficult challenge? Couldn’t you work a bit harder to make more difficult detections? Isn’t speeding even more dangerous on ordinary roads than it is on your favourite through routes?

Concentrating on ‘soft targets’ isn’t good enough. It betrays an addiction to causing misery as distinct from a commitment to road safety. It’s suspiciously like a money-making racket.

Yes, I’ve tackled this subject before. I’m tackling it again because quite a few friends have had fixed penalties and points on their licences recently. All of them were caught at one of three favoured spots around Derry. They were either on the Culmore Road, on the Limavady Road near Caw Roundabout or on the Cresent Link. What have all these spots got in common? Answer: They’re all lucrative fishing grounds for the police. They’re all either dual carriageways or four lane roads. Obviously it’s as difficult to keep within the limit at these places as it is to exceed the limit on other roads.

Last week we heard radio star Gerry Anderson had been caught three times in three weeks. His offences were all at the bottom of the hill on the Culmore Road. “It’s impossible to go down there at 30 miles an hour which is what the limit is,” Gerry told his listeners. “There’s no danger of any kind. You could easily go down there at 60 miles an hour,” he said.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against enforcing speed limits, particularly in urban areas where pedestrians are most at risk. Enforcing limits can make a big contribution to road safety. Far too many children are being badly injured. The children’s ward at Altnagelvin is often full of the results. But relatively few of these accidents happen on busy dual-carriageways or on busy four lane roads. And even if this weren’t the case, it still wouldn’t justify concentrating on a few favoured spots.

And when I’m on the subject, that other favoured police tactic of lying-in-wait at overtaking lanes on rural roads is supremely annoying too. It’s perfectly obvious that they’re there because these are lucrative places. It’s not because they’re particularly dangerous. In fact, by concentrating on these places the police are actually encouraging frustrated drivers to take greater chances by overtaking at more dangerous spots. Clearly, it’s harder to make detections on congested roads where there are only two lanes.

I notice too that Gerry Anderson, like many others, opted to pay £85 for an intensive road-safety course as an alternative to getting three more points on his licence. Needless to say there are no such courses in Derry. The nearest ones are at Omagh and Coleraine. Gerry acknowledged that the course was good but unsurprisingly he observed that it was full of grumpy men who didn’t want to be there. If I had to travel to Coleraine and pay for such a patronising course I’d be far too grumpy to drive a car. It would make me an even greater danger to other road users.

To try a different analogy, catching lots of speeders at a few spots is like shooting pheasants on the ground. Couldn’t the PSNI be a bit more sporting?

Read More Hamill’s Beat every Tuesday in the Journal