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Community Speedwatch

Devon County Council (DCC) and Devon and Cornwall Constabulary regularly receive concerns regarding the speed of vehicles outside people’s homes, schools and other places. To save duplication and to provide a better response, DCC and the Police have developed a joint procedure to allow the concerns to be assessed in a consistent manner.

This process is called SCARF, which stands for SPEED COMPLIANCE ACTION REVIEW FORUM.

Should you wish to raise a concern then please contact our Customer Service Centre call 0345 155 1004 or email

It is often difficult to accurately judge the speed of a vehicle, as there are a number of factors that can seem to make vehicles appear to be travelling faster than they actually are. How close the person is stood to the vehicles as they pass, the presence of stone walls and confined spaces either side of the road bounce sound back and make vehicles sound as though they are travelling much faster, vehicles going up hills tend to sound louder and therefore faster due to the engines working harder. All these and more affect how a person perceives speed.

There are locations where drivers travel too fast for the conditions. In these cases, DCC and the police will attempt to deal with the issue and to ensure that we do not waste resources, we make sure we rely on recorded evidence and data and not on personal opinion and hearsay.

When a speed concern is received, it will be reviewed at a meeting of the SCARF Team. The team is normally made up of the Police Road Casualty Reduction and Traffic Management Officer (RCRO), Devon County Council Road Safety Officer and members of the County’s Traffic Team.

All concerns will be looked at, but not all will necessarily undergo the full SCARF assessment. Some sites may have already been assessed in a previous SCARF or work is about to be carried out in the area, so the road conditions will change. Sometimes an experienced traffic technician will take speed readings on site with a speed gun and the data collected will help the SCARF Team assess the scale of the problem.

Once a site has been accepted for SCARF, we look at the collision history and obtain covert speed data for the site. To obtain the speed data, a detection device is located at the site for approximately 10 – 14 days and this records the speed and number of passing vehicles. The County Council has a limited number of these detection devices and so it may take a few months before one is available for the site.

We generally avoid taking speed data collections during school holidays as this may not reflect the normal traffic situation. Where there is a clear difference between the summer and winter traffic flows at a site, two sets of readings are often taken as this allows any measures that need to be introduced to be targeted at the main problem. We also take readings in both directions of travel at a site as sometimes a problem only exists in one direction.

Once the data has been collected, the SCARF team will discuss the site and make a decision based on the data and the topography of the site. There are a number of different outcomes. The team may decide that no further action is required or if the data does indicate that a speeding issue exists, the team will decide what action is necessary. This ranges from education and enforcement through to engineering.

Dependant on the level of contravention of the speed limit, different forms of intervention measures will be used. Below are a number of those that might be used.

Speed detection device (SID)

This device is a mobile screen that flashes up the speed a driver is travelling at and this helps to immediately reduce the speed. The device is geared towards education rather than prosecution. Any driver who passes through at excess speed may well be stopped and spoken to about their speed or receive a letter shortly afterwards advising them of the error of their ways.

Vehicle activated sign (VAS)

These devices can be either permanent or temporary. They are normally attached to a lighting column and the sign displays the speed limit when a vehicle is driven past at a speed above this. Again this is for education rather than enforcement.

Speed Watch

In coordination with the Police, there are three types of Speed Watch:

  • School Speed Watch
  • Neighbourhood Speed Watch
  • Community Speed Watch.

Speed Watch involves members of the local community, and aims to engage and educate drivers rather than give fines and court appearances. Using a staged warning system, first time offenders will receive further education and warnings, persistent offenders can expect further police action and even a court appearance.

For more information see the Devon & Cornwall Police website for Speedwatch.

Police enforcement

This can take a number of forms, from a Neighbourhood Beat Manager going out with a speed measuring device (Speedace) or Police traffic units running an operation to stop large numbers of people.

Safety Camera Partnership (SCP)

If the level and number of people speeding at the site is significant or excessive, the SCP may be tasked to enforce at the site with one of their mobile camera vans.


Dependent on the location, scale of the issue and funds available, engineering solutions can sometimes be used to reduce the speeding issue. This includes gateway features to villages and towns, road humps or chicanes, rumble devices, overrun areas and lining and signing.

In some cases, the speed limit for a section of road may be found to be at odds with other roads in the area due to changes since the speed limit was originally installed and the speed limit may need to be raised or lowered.

The result of the SCARF process is sent to the originator of the complaint and to the local county councillor.

If another complaint is received for the same area within three years and there have not been any significant changes to traffic patterns, changes to the road network or new developments in the area, another SCARF will not normally be started and the complainant will be informed of the original assessment.