Motorists driving through the student-heavy areas of Leeds have been warned to lower their speeds to avoid knocking down potentially drunk and vulnerable young people during “freshers’ week” in the city.
A warning was issued by a West Yorkshire Police officer on the day the force carried out enforcement work across the city as part of a Europe-wide campaign to prevent road deaths around the continent.
The force’s roads policing unit yesterday targeted hotspot areas including the A58 between the Armley Gyratory near the city centre and the junction of Roundhay Road and Harehills Lane in north Leeds.
In Dortmund Square in the city centre, members of the public were encouraged to have a go on a reaction timer and static bikes and speak to police motorcyclists.
They were also invited to sign up to the Project Edward (European Day Without A Road Death) pledge about safe driving.
Gary Roper, road policing support sergeant for West Yorkshire Police, said officers wanted to highlight the dangers of the ‘fatal four’ problems most likely to lead to crashes – drink or drug driving, distractions while driving, speeding and not wearing a seatbelt.
We have had the influx of students in Headingley, where the roads have a 30mph speed limit. But while there are students about who might be intoxicated, 30mph might not be appropriate.Gary Roper, West Yorkshire Police
He said: “One of the common factors is certainly excess speed. It doesn’t necessarily mean excess for the speed limit but excess for the circumstances. You can see that nationwide, not just Leeds, people driving too fast to give themselves time to react.
“We have had the influx of students in Headingley, where the roads have a 30mph speed limit. But while there are students about who might be intoxicated, 30mph might not be appropriate.
“The best way I would put it is that people should be aware of merry revellers associated with freshers’ week. They can be drunk and can be vulnerable as they walk across the road.”
Thousands of students have been arriving in Leeds in the past few days to take part in freshers’ week activities before they start their studies at the city’s three universities.
Mr Roper said he and his fellow officers, as well as special constables who gave up their free time to volunteer, targeted motorists driving poorly in several areas of Leeds and wider West Yorkshire yesterday.
He said: “We are there to identify poor driver behaviour. People who have no regard for the law are generally bad drivers as well.
“They are just people you don’t want on the road. If you can’t be bothered to insure your vehicle, what are your driving standards going to be like?
“In terms of getting our message out there it has been very successful. We are using enforcement but also education.”
Mr Roper said there had been an increase in the number of collisions involving cyclists in recent months because there were now more on the road due to the success of the Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire.
He said: “Statistically there have been more collisions involving cyclists, which I would put down to an increase in cyclists, either commuting or for leisure rides.”
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has also released a collection of posters highlighting the dangers of the fatal four. Area Manager for Fire Safety Ian Bitcon said: “This is an excellent project and we hope that we achieve a day without a road death in Europe.
“Firefighters attend a significant number of fatal road traffic collisions each year and these are traumatic for staff but also have a devastating effect on the friends and family of the victims. Every single one of these deaths is a needless tragedy.”
West Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Mark Milsom said: “There were 48 road users fatally injured on West Yorkshire’s roads in 2015, which is a reduction in the county from the previous two years however it is still nearly one per week and a figure we are keen to try and reduce further.”
In North Yorkshire, police and highways officials are carrying out a week of action on the roads as part of the Project Edwards campaign.
Officers will be using an unmarked HGV provided by Highways England, to ensure HGV drivers are also driving their vehicle carefully and within the law.