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Routes to speed safety: Understanding and measuring the contribution of Community Speedwatch

This project will explore at the effectiveness and impact of the the national Community Speed Watch (CSW) scheme, which allows volunteers to monitor speeds in local communities.

Key details

Lead institution
Principal researcher(s)
Dr Leanne Savigar-Shaw
Police region
West Midlands
Collaboration and partnership

In collaboration with Gloucestershire Police.

Level of research
Professional/work based
Project start date
Date due for completion

Research context

The national Community Speed Watch (CSW) scheme allows volunteers to monitor and respond to speeds in local communities, facilitated by police forces. Uptake and continued use is extensive despite there being no in-depth evaluation of the impact of CSW on vehicular speeds, relationships between communities and the police, and community perceptions of safety.

Assumptions made about CSW effectiveness and how it can be used to satisfy communities needs to be tested and evaluated (Wells & Millings, 2019).

This project aims to inform evidence-based practice for tackling speed by providing an evaluation of the use and effectiveness of CSW in reducing speeds, empowering communities and influencing perceptions of legitimacy/safety in Gloucestershire.

This will be achieved through the following objectives and work strands:

  1. To evaluate the impact of CSW on speed by monitoring and comparing vehicular speeds before, during and after the presence of CSW activity, and in geographies that do not currently implement CSW, over a longitudinal time-period.
  2. To explore the experiences and impact of CSW on those involved in their activities and those living in wider communities through qualitative and quantitative research methods.
  3. To understand the experience and resulting impact of being identified exceeding the speed limit by CSW activity through post-CSW activity questionnaires and interviews.
  4. To develop evidence-informed practice for tackling speed in communities through a series of dissemination products to be shared with Gloucestershire Police, wider force areas and the road safety community.

Together, these strands of work will provide an evidence-base around CSW that can be used by practitioners to inform practice for engaging with drivers and communities around the issue of speed. As such, the work will benefit police forces utilising CSW, the communities that take up the approach and those that CSW activity is targeted at.

Research methodology

The project consists of several work strands that combine to achieve the above aims and objectives.

  1. Vehicle speed data will be collected from covert non-enforcement cameras (not used for CSW activity) for specific vehicles identified by overt CSW activity as exceeding the speed limit within two geographical locations in the Gloucestershire Police force area.

    This speed data will be retrospectively taken from the 6-months prior to identified offending as well as the subsequent 6-months, to give a total 12-month picture of vehicle speed data for those vehicles. This will allow for a comparison between any changes in speed before, during and after CSW activity.

    Average speed in CSW activity-present areas will also be compared with average speeds in control sites that experience no CSW activity. This will evaluate the impact of CSW activity (physical presence and letter to identified offenders) on vehicle speeds for those identified as exceeding the speed limit as well as the impact of mere physical CSW presence on average speed.
  2. Seven focus groups will be conducted; five with CSW volunteers and two with police organisation employees. For CSW volunteer focus groups, the focus will be on their motivations for involvement, relationships and experiences of working with the police, including perceived police legitimacy, experiences of empowerment to police speeds locally, perceptions of safety/perceived ‘success’ and recommendations for development.

    For police organisation employees, the focus will be on their experiences of implementing CSW, relationships and experiences of working with volunteers, perceptions of safety/perceived ‘success’ and recommendations for development.
  3. These will be complemented with an online questionnaire open to local community members and the wider road safety community, with an anticipated minimum of 50 participants. This will enquire into their perceptions of CSW activity, what makes ‘success’, perceptions of road safety and police legitimacy.

    Project strands 2 and 3 will explore the experiences and impact of CSW on those directly involved and wider communities, to identify whether/how CSW activity may provide benefit and recommendations for future practice.
  4. All offenders receiving communication from the police force over a six-month period will be invited to complete both an online questionnaire and partake in an interview to understand self-reported attitudes and intended behaviour change following their experience as well as their perceptions of the experience and resulting outcome. It is intended that at least 50 questionnaire and 10 interview participants will be recruited.

    Those that leave contact details will be invited to complete a follow-up questionnaire three months later with the same questions to identify any changes over that time. This will complement strand 1 to understand the role of CSW in creating safer roads through behaviour change and allow a validity check of police data by interviewing offenders directly.

Research participation

CSW volunteers, stakeholders, wider community members and those who have been identified exceeding the speed limit through CSW activity within Gloucestershire.

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