Speeding soared in 2020 as traffic levels plummeted

Speeding soared in 2020 as traffic levels plummeted
The number of drivers flouting speed limits shot up last year as many “dangerously took advantage of quieter roads” during lockdown.

Under free-flowing traffic conditions, 56% of cars exceeded the speed limit on 30mph roads, compared to 53% on motorways and 12% on national speed limit single carriageway roads, Department for Transport (DfT) figures reveal.

Speed limit penalties were at their peak when the first lockdown was enforced in 2020, despite traffic levels dropping to less than a quarter of typical levels. The number of drivers breaking the speed limit on 30mph and 60mph roads immediately spiked, the data shows.

This gradually decreased and traffic levels balanced out to normal levels. However, motorists speeding on the motorways remained at a fairly consistent level throughout the year.

Drivers were also found to be more likely to speed at different times of day. There was a large spike in speeding on 30mph routes overnight, when roads are far quieter. A similar but less extreme difference occurred on 60mph routes.

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: “These figures confirm that there were shocking levels of speeding during the first lockdown period in 2020, and it’s clear that some drivers dangerously took advantage of quieter roads to drive far faster than they would do in normal times.

“What’s particularly concerning were the levels of non-compliance on 20 and 30mph roads, many of which are in residential areas and close to schools.

“If traffic volumes don’t return to pre-pandemic levels, it would be terrible if the lockdown legacy was an increase in the number of drivers who consistently speed.

“In short, speed kills and we can only hope that police forces across the country are able to put the resources in place to clamp down on dangerous drivers and help ensure the roads are safe for everyone.”

The RAC Report on Motoring 2020 unearthed reasons as to why drivers exceed the speed limit for each road class.

Respondents who admitted to exceeding the speed limit on motorways selected a greater number of reasons on average than those who admitted to exceeding the speed limit on 20mph roads.

Of the reasons given, the one stated the most was that motorists drive according to the speed of other road users, with this being cited by 39% of motorway users and 28% of 30mph road users. On 20mph roads, users most often cited the speed limit being ‘inappropriate’ as for the reason for their speeding (45%).

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