ProLaser HOTA speed gun

Press Release

Countering the hidden danger

Rural roads account for the majority of road deaths but the steady drip, drip of fatalities goes largely unnoticed. Effectively policing large numbers of remote locations is a tricky proposition but off-grid and mobile technologies are the keys to success, and Truvelo’s place on the CCS TTAS Framework means that solutions can be readily procured and deployed. 

While mainstream media continue to concentrate on the fatalities ‘caused’ by smart motorways, the UK’s rural roads remain the biggest cause of driving-related deaths. A challenge is the enormity of the task involved in successfully policing them and influencing driving habits in order to bring about change and increase safety. 

Some numbers help to illustrate this. 

The Strategic Road Network (SRN) — our most visible road asset — carries around two-thirds of the UK’s vehicular traffic but it consists of just 4,300 miles of motorways and A-roads. Compare that to almost 0.25 million miles of roads across the nation as a whole: the SRN amounts to not much more than 1.5 percent of the total and, with its relatively few lane miles, its safety issues can be adequately addressed using a relatively small number of fixed camera and signage installations. 

In the UK, in 2021, there were 1,608 road-related fatalities. In Scotland and Wales, three-quarters of the people killed were travelling on rural roads at night; in England, the figure was two-thirds. In all three countries, two-thirds of those killed were the drivers themselves. 

Rural roads, many of which were constructed in antiquity, exhibit some of the least-safe geometries and conditions, combining tight turns, frequent obstructions and poor lines of sight. They are often the poorest-maintained, the least-used and the most vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. 

All of this makes effective policing/enforcement/compliance complicated. Addressing the needs of a remote road which may only be used by single numbers of vehicles per week is a daunting prospect, and there are very many of them. 

Cost is a significant obstacle. While it may be politically desirable to state that no price can ever be put on a life, the reality is that installing fixed solutions at every potentially dangerous road location is not going to happen. 

The answer is to use mobile solutions, modern iterations of which can work off-grid in difficult and remote conditions. A combination of softer compliance and harder enforcement is also desirable.

Improving compliance 

Most traffic incidents are the result of inappropriate road behaviour, principally excessive speed. In many instances, better compliance does much to address the speeding problem. 

Community Speed Watch uses volunteer observers who stand at the roadside, measuring and recording vehicle speeds using handheld devices. However, with the increasing emphasis on minimising risk to the individual, traditional methods of operation are becoming non-viable. Locations have to be risk-assessed and volunteers trained to work safely in a live traffic environment. There is also a potential risk to volunteers of adverse reactions from motorists not taking kindly to being observed. 

For use in urban and semi-rural locations, Truvelo has automated the process. 

Automatic Community Speed Watch (ACSW) combines the company’s VIA-Cam radar speed camera with lamp-column mounting or off-grid wind and solar power and wireless connectivity. It enables Community Speed Watch operations to go on without the need for a human presence at the roadside. This increases individual safety, reduces the subjectivity of personal involvement, and provides a 24-hour capability in all light conditions.

 ACSW provides a further, intermediate step between the use of speed information display signs to give motorists real-time feedback on their driving performance and full speed enforcement using Home Office Type-Approved (HOTA) camera systems. It is already in operation in Hertfordshire, where it is having a very positive effect on road users’ compliance levels.

 The ACSW’s VIA-Cam can measure speeds above 5mph and, because it can capture both front and rear plate images, is bi-directional. This enables both lanes of a road to be monitored simultaneously and increases siting possibilities. It also provides an effective solution to speeding motorcycles. 

The camera operates across a wide temperature range (-15 to +50C) and its infrared illumination enables images to be captured at night as well as in daylight. Images and associated data are automatically transferred into a back office for adjudication and onward processing via bespoke encrypted cellular telephony. 

To create the first-generation ACSW technology, Truvelo deployed systems on estates across its portfolio of blue-chip clients. These are from a wide variety of business sectors, including pharmaceutical, steel production, car manufacturing and aviation. The company is now looking to bring the benefits of the technology to the public sector and public roads. 

Truvelo has also gone on to develop a second-generation passive-safe solution with a frangible pole which, potentially, can be used at locations where the speed limit is up to 60mph, and without a barrier or some other form of intermediate protection in place. 

For more remote locations, fully off-grid versions are possible which operate standalone for extended periods of time. Data communication/retrieval would be at distance via cellular telephony or via periodic wireless download at the roadside.

Improving enforcement

Effective enforcement combines elements of predictability — knowing the location of a camera andthe likelihood of being caught driving badly — and unpredictability — not knowing where a mobilecamera team might pop up, and so being encouraged to generally drive more conservatively.

Ultimately, in the perception of the driver, there has to be sufficient possibility of being caught for there to be a deterrent effect.

Rural roads’ remoteness from view can encourage extremely poor driving in some. Across pandemic, for example, there was an increased incidence of ‘super-speeding’ — sports and supercar owners taking advantage of public roads being deserted and, effectively, using them as track-day venues.

It would be impossible to provide a fixed-camera solution at every possible point on the UK road network. Portable cameras provide an effective means of countering excessive speeding on all parts of the network and in a non-predictable manner. They bring with them the unfamiliarity of location which policing and safety organisations need to move to the next level of compliance.

The ability to pop up unexpectedly in different places is combined with being relatively inexpensive — several portable cameras can be bought for the price of a single average speed enforcement system, for instance

Truvelo’s LASERcam4 has led the field in the UK since gaining Type Approval two years ago

Useable on and off public highways in support of both criminal and civil enforcement activities, it has a 3.2in colour touchscreen and weighs just 1.7kg with its integral eight-hour power supply. The Class 1 Eye-Safe laser is effective from 3-750m, with a beam divergence of <1mrad. The camera has an acquisition time of a third of a second and speed accuracy is +/-1mph over a 10-200mph range. 

The LASERcam4 is IP55 certified. The LASERcam4 can store up to 2,000 offences on its internal memory. These are easily downloadable or transferrable via WiFi. Exceptional day and low-light capabilities, including IR enforcement compatibility, are allied to auto-focus, exposure and zoom features. 

LASERcam4 is compatible with existing StarTraq and EROS back office processing solutions, however through the development and introduction of its own back office product, the Violation Management Solution (VMS), Truvelo can now provide a true end-to-end solution from a single supplier. 

Like the camera, the VMS is suitable for use by policing and private-sector organisations. It is available as an internal private cloud version which will operate on servers behind customers ’own firewalls or as Software as a Service using Microsoft Azure. 

LASERcam4’s effectiveness has resulted in it enjoying significant success within the UK enforcement sector, with sales inside just six months of its type approval coming close to equalling those achieved by its predecessor over several years. 

Norfolk and Suffolk Safety Camera Partnerships have recently renewed some of their mobile speed enforcement equipment, making the Truvelo LASERcam4 their device of choice. 

“We have worked with Truvelo on a number of enhancements to their back office solution. These allow our operators to increase their onsite time whilst also facilitating the automatic flow of data to the back office for processing. The new system will realise efficiencies not only in more dynamic enforcement processes, to increase road safety, but also reduce mileage costs and impact our carbon footprint,” says Phil Payne, Traffic Justice Manager, Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies.

Faster procurement 

A place on the highly prestigious Crown Commercial Services TTAS framework permits UK publicsector bodies to procure from Truvelo by way of direct award as well as further competition. It means that the solutions offered have already been fully certified and risk-assessed, and can be deployed as soon as they have been procured