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Sparsholt Parish Council - Proposed Action on Speed Limits on the B4507

on Wed, 12/09/2018 - 4:45pm

Proposed Action on Speed Limits on the B4507 between Ashbury and Wantage

Currently, on this section of highway, national speed limits i.e. 60mph, apply.  There are no other speed limits between Ashbury and Wantage.  Alternative limited speeds are usually used to improve safety in sections recognised where speed contributes to an unacceptable accident risk and as such generally requires evidence of a safety hazard such as views of residents in the vicinity, or a police accident record. 

There are records of traffic incidents along this section of road, including fatalities. While it is not proven that speed was the major factor in these, it is well known that some vehicles travel at excessive speed on the road.   The volume of traffic on this road is increasing, with the growth in traffic generally, and with significant housing development in the area.  This  road is also characterised by side turnings with traffic leaving and joining this road.        

There are several approaches to be considered to improve the management of speeds on this section:

Option 1:

Request the Highway Authority (OCC) to create a traffic regulation Order (TRO) which requires drivers to keep their speed below the defined limit. This can work for those drivers who respect the limit, and where the Police are seen and known to enforce the limit.  Unfortunately, with declining budgets, police speed enforcement is becoming less and less effective, and we are increasingly dependent on drivers believing that the limits are worth respecting.  It is not considered appropriate to make such an order in the section between Ashbury and Wantage.

Option 2:

An alternative is to request OCC to implement advisory speed limits; these are used on a stretch of road that is potentially hazardous and they recommend to drivers a safe maximum driving speed. They are marked on site by limit signs, with repeater signs at a maximum distance between limit signs. The location of an advisory maximum speed limit sign varies, but can often be seen on bends. As the advisory speed limit is not contained within a red ring, it is the motorists’ choice of whether they obey the advised speed limit or not, providing they do not exceed the maximum regulatory speed limit.

Obviously, motorists should take weather conditions, road and traffic conditions and the severity of the potential hazard into account to decide on an appropriate speed at which to drive in any section of road.

Option 3:

Vehicle Activated Signs (VAS) are the electronic displays that flash up the speed limit, or the speed of the approaching vehicle.  The signs are usually activated at a pre-set trigger speed by the approach of a vehicle. They alert only those who are driving above the speed limit or, if used on an approach to a hazard, too fast for the road conditions.

These signs are effective in reducing speed, particularly of fast drivers who contribute disproportionately to the accident risk.  Elsewhere, signs are currently operating at some accident sites with externally funded signs at sites where there may not be a casualty history but there is a high degree of non-compliance with the speed limit. Such signs would work at particularly dangerous sites such as at Britchombe Farm camping site where members of the public walk openly in the carriageway.  It is suggested that the operators of this camping site should be approached with a view to funding 2 VAS signs to reduce speeds, one in each direction.

Where there is no, or minimal, casualty history but there is evidence to show a higher degree of non-compliance with the speed limit, a town or parish council can fund VAS as a low-cost accident prevention measure. On the other hand, these signs are quite expensive to procure, install and maintain.  There is also evidence that drivers become blasé about such signs and their effectiveness reduces quite rapidly with time.

In other council areas, speed monitoring patrols have been implemented using local members of the public. These people get suitable equipment on loan from the police, are trained by the police officers and operate under strict rules laid down by the police.  Keepers of vehicles recorded as speeding using the equipment are then written to by the police with evidence of this speeding.  It is understood that repeat “offenders” get a visit from the police officer.

Consistency.

Speed limits which change frequently along one or more sections of road tend to reduce drivers’ attention to them; it is best to have a consistent level of speed control over as wide an area as possible.  On the rural roads in our vicinity, where one would reasonably expect consistent speed limits, we have sections that are 50mph and others which are 60mph. It is suggested that the road which is being considered here should have a consistent limit from the outskirts of Ashbury to the boundary of Wantage, the limit should be consistent with others in the locality eg the A417 to Faringdon, and that limit should be 50mph.  That would have the best chance of being observed by drivers.

Proposed Action:

It is suggested that the Parish Council should write to our local OCC Member and to the Highways division of OCC and propose that:

  1. A formal consultation be undertaken in the villages along this section of road, with a view to introducing speed control measures to restrict speeds to 50mph along the entire length of the road.
  2. VAS be implemented at the camping site (to be funded by the site operators);
  3. Warning signs be placed at danger locations, such as at the foot of the White Horse Hill, to warn drivers travelling in both directions, of the hazard ahead.
  4. Thames Valley Police be requested to carry out regular speed enforcement checks at peak traffic times.
  5. The Parish Council should consider offering to contribute to the cost of the agreed scheme.

Sparsholt Parish Council

June 2018