An afternoon with Kintyre’s traffic police

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Words and photographs Mark Davey

Vehicles seemed to magically slow down as Campbeltown’s most experienced traffic cops monitored speed.

On a cool bright November afternoon, in the middle of a Police Scotland road safety week, Sergeant Archie McGuire and PC Richard Kay invited the Courier to see a speed check operation.

The location was the A83 straight by the  Glencraigs farm entrance.

As a single carriageway road it has a maximum speed limit of 60mph for cars, 50mph for goods vehicles below 7.5 tonnes and 40mph for goods vehicles over 7.5 tonnes.

In the past, car drivers travelling at 120mph have been stopped there and found themselves in front of a sheriff facing a ban.

Before the officers left Campbeltown police station a number of checks on the American made Custom Pro Laser III speed gun are carried out.

The device is calibrated each year but before use a pre-determined range is checked, three times, to make sure the gun is within tolerance. The alignment of the sighting mechanism is also checked in the vertical and horizontal plane.

The gun has a range of 6,000ft but is usually used at about 1,000ft.

The perception is that traffic police carrying out speed checks are hidden. At the Glencraigs location the two officers are visible for at least a quarter of a mile.

Sergeant McGuire said: ‘Not everyone is enforced (punitively) because up to a point we are educating drivers as well.

‘We might pull someone in for a chat about their speed. Sometimes though that leads to all sorts of other checks.’

These might include whether the driver has a valid licence and that the vehicle’s MOT is valid, is the vehicle insured, are the tyres legal and do the lights work correctly?

The lights and tyres are vitally important at this time of year and are included in Police Scotland’s Festive Road Safety message.

The speed gun is held steadily in both hands and its target sighting with a red LED square is aimed at vehicles.

Sergeant McGuire, who has 20 years traffic policing experience, added: ‘We try to target a flat surface at the front of the vehicle such as the registration plate.’

Officers try to stand next to the tarmac at the edge of the road. Standing at an angle, to the road, causes the speed to register lower as a triangle is formed and the cosine effect angle alters the reading, always in the driver’s favour.

‘Often drivers pass officers carrying out speed checks and flash at oncoming cars,’ said PC Kay, ‘How do they know that the person coming towards them is honest, perhaps they have no insurance or have just broken into someone’s house.’

About 15 minutes into the check a driver was stopped at 73mph and accepted a fixed penalty notice, of three points and a £100 fine, for travelling at 73mph.

Till the end of the operation no-one else was stopped and everyone complied with the law, many car drivers passing at about 55mph.

Police Scotland publishes full road safety advice for driving in the winter with particular emphasis on the special hazards such as ice, snow and fog.

Road safety advice can be found at:

Speed can be checked of vehicles passing in both directions. 25_c48trafficpolice04_front_of_car

A speeding driver is stopped. 25_c48trafficpolice11_speeder

The display on a laser speed gun. 25_c48trafficpolice14

Sgt Archie McGuire holds the gun as steady as possible for the speed check. 25_c48trafficpolice12

The traffic officers drove a twin turbo two litre diesel BMW. 25_c48trafficpolice07