Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Do as I say, not as I do

This might turn into a ranty post. It's not meant to be but something I saw today shocked me somewhat and when I mentioned it on Twitter, no-one said anything. Not a dicky bird. So, maybe I'm alone on this. Tell me if I am once I've told this tale.

First a bit of background. In order to get to school from our house, we have to travel a mile along one road that cuts through the "village" where we live. In times past, it was the main road but it has long been usurped by the straighter and wider road that runs parallel to it. At the end where we live, the road is quite narrow and is flanked on both sides by houses (some with front doors right on the street, others with small front gardens), the odd shop and a couple of play areas. However, closer to school, it widens out as it dissects  much newer estates of houses so it's more of a link road. They often have a mobile speed camera on that section. They use, as a justification, the fact there was once a fatality on that road - an accident between a teenager in a car and a younger teenager on a bicycle - the only one in the whole time I've lived in the area to keep it there. I know - I happened to be looking at these stats yesterday (Actually, it fails on the government guidelines of where speed cameras should be placed but according the local road safety partnership, it is a "site of community concern", whatever that is. It is a 30 mph zone the whole length of the road, but soon, it will be 20mph, meaning the camera will be able to snap and send fixed penalties to people driving as little as 25mph and a summons for doing as little as 35mph. On the one section of the road where the pavements are kept well away from the road, and is largely straight with no blind bends.

So, back to today. As I drove down our road to the junction with this road, I saw a police car approach, and then pass. I pulled out behind this car and followed it. At first, the road is narrow and it's not the fastest, as there are a lot of parked cars and the police car was following another vehicle but then the vehicle turned off as the road widens a tad. As we got to this slightly wider part (which, by the way, is still littered with a lot of parked cars as there are still a lot of houses on either side), I noticed that the police car was pulling away from me, gathering quite some speed. I took a quick look at my speedometer and I noticed that the police car - with no lights or sirens going - was probably doing well over 30 already. The driver then had to slow down as there are some temporary lights for some small roadworks, but then the car sped up again and disappeared off into the distance.

By the time the police car approached the widest part, I estimate it was doing at least 45mph. I stuck to doing 30mph because I know that the speed camera van is often there and is just after a slight bend in the road where you might not see it until it's too late coming from that direction. The police car once again disappeared from view. In fact, when I reached the junction at the end, the car was already disappearing around the next junction a quarter of a mile away.

I am still shocked. Not at any time were any blue lights displayed. I am pretty sure they need to at least have these on if they are responding to an emergency call. I've seen police cars racing up the main road to incidents with lights going but no sirens if nothing is in their way. That police car was headed towards my own children's school and although it was before the children came out, there are parents with younger children walking along the roads to school, plus there is another school across the road that finishes some 15 minutes before ours so those parents and their children would already have been coming out of the school.

What would have happened if the speed camera was there? Would the driver had slowed? Or would the offence be quietly forgotten about had he been snapped? Had the driver been just over the limit, I wouldn't have minded - we all do it after all. But this wasn't and the driver was getting close to the speed that would trigger a summons for your average Joe Bloggs. The driver also drove pretty recklessly in the narrower parts - parked cars, roadworks, narrow road, lots of pedestrians - albeit at a lower speed, but still well over the speed limit. The conditions were wet - it had been raining hard for well over an hour and although it had eased off, it was still raining and the roads were wet.

Without being too much of a Mrs Angry about this, the thing that annoys me the most as that the police should be above reproach. Yes, there are times when situations dictate the need for police cars to exceed the speed limit but there are protocols for this, right? If there is no need, they should attempt to stick to the speed limit like everyone else. And this was not just a case of driving a little over the speed limit - at its worst, it was probably close to 20 mph over the speed limit. Had that been me in front and the police car behind me, I would have been stopped and the proverbial book thrown at me.

The title of this post reflects how I feel about this; that the average citizen is told to stick to the speed limits and suffer the consequences if we exceed them and are caught. And then, the same people who are responsible for enforcing those speed limits break them without justification nor thought for other road users. Of all the speeding sins, speeding close to schools around home time has got to be one of the worst and this is what concerns me the most.

What do you think? Was I right to be shocked? Or am I just being Mrs Angry? Answers on a comment postcard please.

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