Body-worn cameras for West Sussex school crossing patrols help reduce anti-social driving

Abusive behaviour from motorists and drivers failing to stop are just some of the problems faced outside school gates in West Sussex.

Friday, 22nd March 2019, 5:02 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd March 2019, 5:06 pm

But a scheme to equip lollipop men and women with body-worn cameras has seen the behaviour of drivers around schools ‘significantly’ improve, according to West Sussex County Council.

How the cameras work

The cameras, which were first used at schools in the area in spring, 2016, are worn across the chest to capture video and audio footage of any motorists driving in an antisocial manner or being abusive towards patrols as they help children and parents across the road.

Worthing lollipop man Terry Rickards with his body worn camera

If footage of an offence is captured, it is passed to Sussex Police to consider as evidence for possible prosecution.

A county council spokesman said: “One of the main reasons for introducing the cameras was not to seek to prosecute people, but to encourage good driving behaviour and to be used as a deterring factor – to reduce or eliminate antisocial behaviour.”

The council installs temporary signs at school crossing sites to warn motorists that body-worn video cameras are in operation.

“The result is that drivers’ behaviours are significantly improved,” the spokesman said.

Mr Rickards in Wiston Avenue outside the Thomas A Beckett school in Worthing

Cases under investigation

West Sussex County Council’s school crossing patrol team, working in conjunction with Sussex Police, has been encouraging schools to use the equipment.

Across West Sussex there are now 14 school crossing patrols using the cameras.

This includes four in the north of the county – which includes East Grinstead, Billingshurst and Haywards Heath, seven in the west – which includes Southwick, Shoreham and Worthing, and three in the south – which includes Littlehampton, Barnham and Aldingbourne.

Since the cameras were first used in 2016, footage has been passed to Sussex Police’s Operation Crackdown on 11 occasions, the council spokesman said.

This includes six occasions in the north of the county, two in the west and three in the south.

The spokesman said: “Although there have been no prosecutions to date, some cases are currently being investigated by the police and there have been other incidents where police have sent letters to motorists, advising them about their antisocial driving behaviour.”

While the county council provides training, ongoing support and temporary signs at the school crossing sites, schools generally purchase the cameras themselves, the spokesman added.

However the council has been working in partnership with a charitable organisation, The Ellie Thornton Foundation, which has made camera donations to schools, and one camera was funded by a local council.

‘A real deterrent’

The first school in Worthing to purchase a body-worn camera for its school crossing patrol was the Thomas A Becket Junior School in Glebeside Avenue.

Since June, 2017, the camera has been used at the crossing in Wiston Avenue to help monitor parking, driving and attitudes of road users.

A spokesman for the school said that, according to lollipop man Terry Rickards, the body-worn camera had been ‘a real deterrent for inconsiderate drivers’.

The county council spokesman said: “The Thomas A Becket Junior School scheme was the first in Worthing in 2017, and we regard this as a huge step forward.

“It has proved to be very successful, and has definitely helped to greatly reduce the amount of drive-throughs and abusive behaviour by impatient or inattentive drivers, giving all peace of mind that use this school crossing patrol site.”

‘Accidents have been avoided’

Harlands Primary School in Penland Road, Haywards Heath, was another of the first schools in the county to use the equipment.

Jane Goodlace, headteacher at the school, said: “Harlands School is located on a steep hill with heavy traffic passing through at peak times of day when the children cross the Penland Road.

“To support the safety of our children, Harlands School purchased a body-worn camera two years ago to be worn by our school crossing patrol. We were amongst the first in the county to pilot this scheme.

“It has proved to be successful in deterring some dangerous driving and antisocial parking, but most successful in providing evidence to the police of extreme incidents where there have been near misses with cars refusing to stop or failing to pull up in time.

“Thankfully accidents have been avoided by the swift actions taken by my crossing patrol.

“The majority of drivers will slow down when they realise they are being captured on camera.”

However, Mrs Goodlace said the school was currently without a crossing patrol after their ‘highly valued’ lollipop lady left two weeks ago and was waiting to hear from the county council about a replacement.

She said: “We are extremely grateful to a volunteer parent who has stepped into the breach temporarily but only employees of West Sussex Traffic Management are authorised to use the camera.

“Harlands is hopeful that the crossing patrol will continue to be funded by West Sussex.”

Anyone interested in arranging a camera for a school crossing patrol for their school can contact [email protected]

Advice for motorists

West Sussex County Council has issued the following advice to motorists around schools.

A spokesman said: “Please give our school crossing patrols consideration and assistance.

“They are there to help vulnerable children and other pedestrians to use our roads safely in all weathers.”

Remember to:

• Park well away from the crossing site, so that the patrol can see clearly in all directions

• Reduce speed and be prepared to stop

• Obey instructions

• Stop your vehicle when asked to do so and do not roll forward

• Wait until the patrol has returned to the pavement before moving off.

Key facts

• It is an offence to drive past a school crossing patrol when they are in the road

• If caught, the offender will receive a fine and three points on their licence – the same they would receive for driving through a red light