Karen Bullock and Melissa Pepper have a long history of working independently and together to understand how volunteers and volunteering may be used to reduce crime and improve community safety.
We have recently been awarded funding from the Road Safety Trust to conduct research looking at the role of volunteers in roads policing. Government figures show that an estimated 27,300 people were killed or seriously injured in Great Britain in 2021. The Road Safety Trust aims to reduce the numbers of people killed or injured on our roads and provides funding for research and practical interventions into new approaches to road safety.
Specifically, our research aims to understand how volunteers are used in roads policing initiatives, to reflect upon their experiences, and to improve the deployment and management of volunteers. The overall intention being to improve the operation of roads safety initiatives and in so doing to work with police services and other organisations to help to reduce deaths and injuries on the roads locally and across the country.
Our focus is Community Speedwatch (CSW). CSW is a scheme in which police services, local community organisations, and volunteers work closely together to monitor speed in local areas. The scheme provides local volunteers with training and equipment to monitor vehicle speeds. Where drivers are not observing the speed limit, they may receive letters of advice from the police service. The hours provided by volunteers provide much needed additional resources to improve the safety of communities. Ultimately, CSW aims to reduce reoffending by speeding drivers who have received a letter of advice from police after being recorded speeding.
We have made a video about CSW and our research that you can see here
CSW has started to become a feature of UK roads safety initiatives and has become a primary way of motivating local people to work together to address concerns about speeding in their neighbourhoods. However, there is very little research on the experiences of CSW volunteers. There are many questions about which we know very little. Why do they get involved? What motivates them? What are their experiences of volunteering in this area? What kinds of contributions are made by CSW volunteers? In what ways might their experiences be improved? Our research seeks to provide some answers to these questions.
To answer these questions, we are working with two police services Surrey Police and Sussex Police. We are using a ‘mixed methods’ approach – surveys, focus groups and interviews – to develop answers to these questions. We will be speaking to both those who volunteer to run CSW programmes and those who lead and manage them.
The research will make a contribution to a neglected area of roads safety research by revealing the factors that support volunteering in roads safety initiatives. The research will generate new knowledge about what works, translate ideas into new actions and, in so doing, influence roads safety policy and practice.
Please note that articles published on this blog reflect the views of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Sociology.