Reporter John Fieldhouse is surprised by the results at a police check on motorists.
We all know speed kills, but the number of drivers with points on their licences always seems to be increasing. But is speeding really an issue in Horncastle?
A silver car appears round the corner of the bend. It’s about 200 yards away. I’d swear it was travelling faster than 40mph. The speed gun in my hand says different. The red-dot focuses on the car’s number plate. Within seconds, a reading automatically appears on the screen - 34mph.
That’s six miles an hour below the limit for Louth Road. Ah well. There’s always the next vehicle. It proves to be a lorry, travelling at 32mph.
It’s followed by three cars. All three drivers slam on the brakes as they spot the speed gun - and the uniform of the police officer standing next to me. The fastest of the cars is travelling at 39mph. Again, I’d estimate it was topping 50.
PCSO Nigel Wass has a rueful smile on his face.
“It’s interesting,” he says. “Most people have a preconception about the speed cars are travelling. Nearly always, they are way out with their estimate. Cars actually aren’t travelling as fast as you think.”
We’re out on patrol on Louth Road. It is one of the main routes into Horncastle and police receive a fair share of complaints from residents concerned about the speed vehicles are travelling.
Admittedly, 10am on a Wednesday morning is not the busiest time of the day. The school run is over. The exodus home is some way off.
Still, in a 15 minute stay, we don’t find one vehicle breaking the limit. That backs up a special speed survey commissioned for Louth Road which showed the average speed of vehicles is below the limit.
PCSO Wass said: “It’s not that there aren’t people breaking the limit but all the signs suggest it’s not as serious a problem as some people might think.”
Ten minutes later and we’ve switched our location to Stanhope Road, which locals claim is another of the town’s speeding hot-spots. In another 15 minute spell, we discover most cars are well below the 30mph limit, One tops the brow of the hill at 32mph - and then slows down when the driver spots us at the side of the road.
PCSO Wass makes a friendly ‘slow down’ gesture with his hands. The driver waves.
PCSO Wass adds: “We aren’t out to take every driver who is one of two miles an hour over the limit to court.
“However, when we feel it is necessary to prosecute then we will. In fact, a lot of this type of work is about education. The more drivers see us out and about with the speed gun, then hopefully the more they will think about the speed they are travelling.
“Certainly, our message would be slow down and keep to the limits. They are there for the safety of everyone.”
PCSO Wass and his fellow officers have worked hard to get that message across.
They regularly invite community groups to take part in similar speed sessions. Again, the general feedback is that cars are travelling slower than the naked eye would suggest.
Recently, PSCO Wass took part in a session with local cubs, scouts and brownies.
The reaction of motorists said it all. When they spotted the youngsters at the road side, they slowed down .
PCSO Wass said: “There’s a popular misconception that we’re hiding behind trees and bushes but that’s not the case.
“When we carry out speed checks, we are always visible.”
To sum up, in almost 30 minutes, we didn’t spot one serious offender.
Yes, it might have been different at another time of day - or in another location.
The checks will continue and police are always working with other agencies - including Highways’ officers - to identity areas to patrol.
PCSO Wass adds: “We had a particularly problem in Thimbleby not so long ago. We did a few checks, handed out a few tickets and drivers did get the message. They slowed down and that road is a lot safer now.” Job done.
A few words of warning to divers. The enormous range of the speed gun is something of a surprise to me - a motorist of 30 years. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can slow down 2-300 yards away.
After all, the next time, it might not be a newspaper reporter who is holding the gun.
*PCSO Wass is happy to carry out speed check sessions with residents or organisations.
He can be contacted at Horncastle Police Station.