Dorking Traffic Department

1967: Dorking Traffic Department: Bob Bartlett: In 1967 I was a motorcyclist at Dorking with Bob Heaton and Pip Kerridge as the sergeants. Clive Cutts, Keith Wilkins, Chris Rodgers and John Waters the senior man; two process offences before breakfast and the rest of the day yours!

My first day was a Sunday morning at 8 am. I moved from Dorking where I was a divisional motorcyclist, took the key from the toilet opened up and rode away. Travelling time was reduced from walking into the town to one hundred yards from my police house in Spital Heath, living next to Pip Kerridge and Cliff Myhill. Chris Rodgers two houses away and over the road Clive Cuts and Edie Armstrong. Vince McFadden was round the corner as was Chris Atkins and at one time John Over.

There was no training, briefing or anything, just collected N November 9, a 650cc Saint and blasted down the A24 (well gingerly rode) frightening beast when you had been on a 125 bantam, 500cc divisional bike then this great machine rumoured to go 0 to 60 mph in 6 seconds. Always pretty busy dealing with RTA and drink driving was big business.

One task was a three month patrol on the A23 to prevent accidents; up and down for a full tour, but it was successful. Radar by the side of the road, endless abnormal loads, freedom to go anywhere and do own thing. Lots of arrests following loads of stop checks. There was every encouragement to do stop checks and lock up criminals.

The Triumph 650 Saint was an attraction to Pip who would muck about with the engines! I was at the Centre and a burglar alarm came in at Chart Lane not far away. I was soon there as the suspects drove off. I opened the throttle and the engine died; Pip had struck!

The Norton 750 Atlas an even bigger beast ridden by the arch professional Keith Wilkins plus Zephyr 6 and Austin Westminster were the cars at the Centre.

I was with Clive Cutts one night in Reigate when a stolen car went past. He drove off very fast in the Zephyr with the bench seat, straight through the tunnel which would be difficult today. Accelerating hard up Reigate Hill BANG, the engine blew up! Clive taught me a mere innocent a few more swear words.

I left Traffic for the bright lights of Dorking CID as a learner with Paddy Doyle, John Carr, Nick Carter, Vince McFadden, Peter Harrison, and Peter Standen.

1967: Introduction of the breathalyser: Powerful new drink drive law has been introduced allowing blood or urine samples to be used to determine amount of alcohol in driver's body instead of prosecution only being able to use evidence of driver's physical condition to convict.

The breathalyser was a disposable crystal filled glass tube that had to have the ends snapped off before a mouthpiece and a bag were fitted; a cheap device, no batteries but a fiddle to use. Change in colour of the crystals indicated excess alcohol.

Bob Bartlett: It was during this period that there were many, many road accidents a large number resulting in deaths, and a great number caused by the drivers drinking too much. This was to result in the Road Safety Act 1967 which upon its introduction the pub forecourts were cleared.

All police officers were trained to use the blow in the bag, crystals system of giving a breath test. It was very effective, especially when compared with the previous system of making a judgement that driving was impaired through alcohol, which then had to be supported in the police station by a police doctor. There were times before the breathalyser when I would deal with an accident almost every day.

The paperwork was enormous. There were no short cuts, as all had to be recorded and statements taken. Following these "accidents " someone was usually at fault and so a prosecution would follow for driving without due care and attention. Hours of paperwork and days wasted in court.

Road accidents came in all sizes from the single vehicle fatal, up to a major coach crash containing the elderly. I dealt with one of these on the A24 at Beare Green, on what is now the old road that leads into the village.

On my arrival I found quite a smash on the series of tight bends with injured and shocked people all over the place but as always with a serious incident there was plenty of help soon there. It can take a great deal of sorting out when such an incident happens and of course on a main road there is soon considerable congestion.

The bends in the High Street in the village of Capel were another notorious place for accidents. The road is narrow as it is today and then all the A24 traffic had to pass through the village. Add to the through traffic parking outside the shops, or the school or pub and the recipe for collisions become obvious.

There was a constant outcry from the locals and as I was connected to the parish council through my father in law, I arranged for Dorking Inspector John Over to address a public meeting in the village hall. The County Council promised a by-pas but it was to be very many years before it came and even in 2009 the final stage through clock house is still to be completed.

On one of my trips on a Traffic Department car when a chief superintendent I was to attend an accident on the bends at Clockhouse, which took me back many a year. Little changes at the scene of an accident. People hurt the same and a mangled vehicle is just as lethal as ever it was. And of course the modern vehicle is so much faster and therefore the injuries can be much more severe. It all ends with a brush and police officers sweeping away the debris.

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