The shift’s barely begun and acting Sgt Jay Clifton has already pulled over a speeder – or tried to.

I’m pulled up in the KFC car park, waiting for the traffic officer to come and show me how Wiltshire Police’s roads policing unit clock speeders along Great Western Way. 

The phone rings. “Can you come to Barnfield Road?” says Mr Clifton, a roads cop with two decades of experience beneath his belt.

Moments earlier he had stopped a 59-plate Hyundai as it approached the roundabout by B&Q. The reading on his Ultralyte 1000 speed gun suggested the hatchback had been travelling at 74mph – almost 25mph above the speed limit for this section of Great Western Way.

This Is Wiltshire:

The back of the officer's speed gun

Mr Clifton says he stepped out into the road and signalled for the driver to stop behind his police BMW, parked just off the main roundabout. 

Instead of stopping, the Hyundai sped off down Barnfield Road, parking up near the sewage plant and apparently running off towards Shaw forest park.

Another police officer has looped around to the other side of the park to see if the driver emerges. Mr Clifton is sanguine about the situation. He’s got the young man’s number plate and the evidence from his speed gun – enough to check up on him later in the evening. 

So it’s back to the road. The unmarked police car is parked up just off the roundabout. There’s an illuminated “police” sign in the windscreen, clearly marking it out as a patrol. 


Mr Clifton stands at the roadside. The speed gun in his hands is around a foot long, with an extendable shoulder stock that leaves it resembling a small sub-machine gun. 

The kit works by firing a small laser at the number plate of the target car, which is reflected back to the gun. A display shows how fast the vehicle is travelling and at what distance the reading was taken. 

Each speed gun is checked by the traffic officers before the start of their shift. The one we’re using tonight has only just come back from the manufacturers for recalibration. It’s as accurate as it’s possible to be. 

Within a minute Mr Clifton’s pinged another car. He steps out into the road, holding up his arm indicating the driver should stop and using the other hand to flash his torch at the oncoming Mercedes. The back of the speed gun shows the driver’s been doing 65 mph a little over 300m from where we’re stood.

This Is Wiltshire:

A/Sgt Jay Clifton

The driver is a relatively young man. He’s a carer for his mum and he’s already been on a speed awareness course. He’s worried about the impact of an extra three points on his licence, but jumps for joy when he learns his old points have been wiped.

He’s learned his lesson, he tells Mr Clifton and another officer. “Don’t speed,” he says when I ask him what he’s learned. “Obviously, people’s lives come first and obviously you aren’t going to want to lose your licence. It’s best to relax and drive slow.”

The next car, a silver Volvo, comes in. It’s been caught doing 62mph. The man behind the wheel is a lorry driver. He’s given a traffic report and sent on his way. 


The officers are out here tonight as part of the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s fortnight-long campaign to tackle speeders. 

But the issue matters personally to Mr Clifton and his colleagues. “In the 15 years I’ve been on this team I’ve seen a lot of death, a lot of carnage and a lot of people’s lives changed because of speed. If I can help reduce that I will.”

He adds: “It’s my job. I’ve been asked to come out here and do my job. I will do that. 

“Members of the public want it as well. Certainly during lockdown when the traffic flow is reduced we’re seeing increased speeds – or perceived increased speeds.

“We’ve gone out as much as we can and doneas many checks as we can to try and help alleviate the concerns of members of the public and say to people during lockdown the speeds haven’t changed.”

This Is Wiltshire:

The officers head over to speak to a driver who's been stopped


A little further along Great Western Way from where we are tonight, a McLaren supercar was picked up last weekend doing more than 107mph – more than twice the speed limit.

Acting Sgt Jay Clifton and his colleagues have seen higher speeds. But that’s typically on the motorway, where those behind the wheel of quiet modern cars can almost accidentally stray above 100mph and where speeds of 140 or 150 are not unknown.

But even a seasoned traffic officer was surprised by the McLaren’s speed.

“Around the town on a dual carriageway, that is absolutely ridiculous,” Mr Clifton says.

“Where we are now on Great Western Way you’re on shorter lengths of road with roundabouts in between and bends on the carriageway.

“There’s wildlife around here. There are members of the public walking to and from work around here.

“At that kind of speed if you strike anything or any human someone will die. It could be the driver, it could be the passenger, it could be a pedestrian, a pedal cycle they hit. Something’s going to go wrong. There is no excuse for it.” 

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There are three main ways the authorities deal with speeding drivers. 

How you’re dealt with is largely up to each police’s force’s traffic justice department, which processes roads offences. 

They might decide you should be sent on a speed awareness course, a half-day programme you must pay for yourself. It’s intended to educate drivers about the dangers of going too fast.

You could be fined £100 and given three points on your licence.

More serious offenders can be summonsed to courts and dealt with by the magistrates. The sentencing guidelines dictate that speeding can only be punished by a fine, which can be up to 175 per cent of your weekly income and a 56 day ban.

But the simplest thing is to drive below the speed limit. “If you don’t watch your speed we will,” Mr Clifton says.