Kevin Daly: Flashing lights belong on a police car, not on a pole
THE new Chief Constable for Avon and Somerset police, Nick Gargan, is certainly making his presence felt. Six months into the job, his boundless energy and obvious enthusiasm for the task suggests he isn't likely to let the grass grow under his feet.
However, two of Mr Gargan's most recent pronouncements have left me with decidedly mixed feelings about his solutions to Somerset's problems: the first pronouncement impressed me greatly; the second – well, let's just say I'm now seeing him in a different light: good cop, bad cop, perhaps?
Our Chief Constable's plans to completely rethink the way the county's force operates are of course welcome. It seems he has taken on board the views of the public – as gathered by Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens – and vowed that Avon and Somerset police will be more transparent and accessible, whilst treating crime victims with fairness. Admirable aims, all.
It's his other stated intention – to bring back fixed speed cameras – that fills me with dismay. It's a contentious issue, pitching those who insist speed cameras are there for a reason against folk who consider them to be little more than yellow piggy banks on poles.
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Of course some people will rightly point out that many have died or been injured as a result of somebody driving too fast. Yet there are also risks from drivers of defective vehicles, along with the idiots who insist on travelling with excessive amounts of drink or drugs in their system. On top of that there are the countless accidents caused by sheer bad driving.
Speed cameras cannot deal with these issues, of course; nor are they able to deter the uninsured and the car tax-dodgers. But a police patrol can do all of these things, and possibly find the odd bald tyre while they're at it.
I happen to believe a lot of accidents are down to human fallibility – those momentary lapses of concentration that most drivers, if they are honest, would admit to. It may not seem particularly dangerous to reach out and switch the radio to another channel – but in that split second a lot of people can get hurt.
So please – can we stop trying to convince ourselves that speed is solely to blame for road accidents? If we really wish to bring about a marked reduction in such incidents, how about improving the skills of Britain's motorists by having compulsory driver awareness tests every five years or so?
As for speeding itself, employing a lot more police mobile units – on all classes of road – would surely keep everyone on their toes, wouldn't it?
I'm convinced the only time some motorists will think about speed limits is when they are approaching a fixed camera. So what is the point of a deterrent that slows a speeding driver only for such time as it takes to get him out of camera range and back up into race mode?
If Mr Gargan wants to deliver on his promise to make his police officers more accessible, let's see them out there checking more cars – and not just for speeds, but for all the other misdeeds too.
I WAS stunned to learn that the magician David Copperfield is worth £600 million. I'm not quite sure how he accrued such riches – I find that once you've seen one Statue of Liberty disappear, you've seen 'em all.
Far more impressive was the trick I saw a magician perform in my supermarket on Saturday. He somehow managed to open a carrier bag without losing his temper.
LAST week's letters on the subject of Saxonvale again appear to suggest there are two deeply-divided factions in Frome: those who want a huge town centre supermarket and the so-called artsy-fartsy craft-shop brigade who don't.
I believe there is no significant divide – most locals simply want a shopping centre large enough to deter them from shopping in Trowbridge. With maybe an assurance that it won't actually end up looking like the one in Trowbridge.