Hamill’s Beat - Views are vindicated on Derry’s ‘fishbowl routes’

The police are guilty as first ‘charged’ in this column. Now we know that an amazing 16.7 per cent of speed detections across the whole of the north in a year were made on just three roads in Derry.

Are these the most dangerous roads in the north or even in Derry? Absolutely not, is the answer. My expression, “shooting fish in a barrel,” has been vindicated. It provoked lively radio debates. One caller to Stephen Nolan coined the phrase, “Derry’s fishbowl routes.” What these three routes have in common is that they provide the most productive fishing grounds for the speed cameras. It’s genuinely difficult to stick to the limits on the safest roads with two lanes in both directions. In other words, to put it simply, they provide speed cops with their softest targets.

Surely when resources are finite they should be directed to areas where there are the most accidents? Yet the PSNI responded to my earlier articles by ignoring that point and expressing surprise that a former officer wasn’t more committed to road safety. Of course, it was because I am committed to road safety that I was concerned about the intelligent use of scarce resources. The police response was feeble.

The PSNI, using speed cameras, caught 3,493 motorists on the Dungiven Road, 2,133 on the Cresent Link (from Altnagelvin roundabout to Kilfennan) and 2,241 on the Culmore Road (between Pennyburn and Madamsbank Road. Yet just two injury accidents were recorded on the Dungiven Road, four on the Cresent Link and eight on the Culmore Road, including the roundabout.

Contrast these figures with the city’s worst accident hotspots as follows: Buncrana road (15); Clooney Road (15); Glenshane Road (15) Northland Road (14); Racecourse (12); Strand Road (10). Despite these figures it was reported that the PSNI had assured the local DPP that accident statistics backed up the targeted deployment of cameras on these three roads.

Perhaps we’ll now be favoured with a more honest response from the PSNI with an adequate degree of intellectual rigour on this subject.

I must admit that as a former press officer I have no idea how I could justify concentrating scarce resources on a few lucrative ‘fishing grounds’.

And if recent publicity does manage to force a change in police tactics please don’t let them migrate to the nearest overtaking lanes outside the city. Lying-in-wait there like highway men of old is also supremely annoying.

It’s also, all too obviously, another soft option. Most accidents don’t happen at overtaking lanes.

Perhaps we should be glad that at least in one respect Derry is leading the way in the north. With 8,465 motorists caught here in the so-called, “Foyle” area we’re the chart toppers. We can put on a show for cameras. The second highest number of offenders was caught in North Belfast and they had 2,364 fewer than us. Pah! Call that speeding! At least we’re ‘good’ at something. Is it the only thing we come tops on apart from our unemployment figures?

Of course, needless to say, the nearest intensive road safety course at £85 a time as an alternative to getting points on your licence is at Coleraine. Some things never change. So, mind how you go on the fishbowl routes.

Read more form Norman Hamill in the Journal every Tuesday