According to campaigners, nearly four-firths of fleet drivers admit to speeding most days, compared to just 52% of private drivers, with only the threat of jail likely to change their behaviour.
But two of Britain’s most high-profile campaign groups for drivers have dismissed the findings, arguing that speeding on its own is not the issue, but ‘inappropriate speed’, while one claims speeding is ‘normal and acceptable – even vital – road user behaviour’.
The report at the centre of the row is the 2005 RAC Report on Motoring, released this week, which reveals the number of drivers speeding has increased by 10% compared to a year ago – despite speed being involved in one-third of fatal accidents.
It estimates that 15 million drivers break the law every day by exceeding the speed limit, with company car drivers causing the biggest problem.
According to RAC research, covering 1,074 UK adults, including 112 company car drivers, 74% of company car drivers (over two million drivers) admit to speeding most days compared to 52% of private drivers.
Furthermore, 31% state that they speed on motorways and on A-roads most days compared to 10% of private drivers, while 18% state that they speed in 30mph zones most days compared to 10% of private drivers.
Motorway speed limits are where the real problem lies, with 69% of company car drivers believing they are set too low compared to 46% of private drivers.
This reflects a Fleet News survey carried out in 2004 in which fleet managers called for the speed limit on motorways to be raised to 80mph (Fleet NewsNet, February 27, 2004).
But company car drivers will change their ways if there is an effective deterrent. Sixty-five per cent said they would change the way they drive if they were to face a six-month prison sentence for speeding, while 61% would alter their driving if they faced a 12 month ban.
Perhaps most notably, 57% would change the way they drive if their car was fitted with an electronic tracking device.
Duncan Wilkes, managing director, RAC Business Solutions, said: ‘We have something of a speeding epidemic on our hands. Companies will need to prove that they have taken all reasonable steps to ensure that their company car drivers and those driving personal cars on company business are aware of the dangers of speed and what action the company will take on those who are habitually breaking the limits, especially on work time.’
But Brian Gregory, chairman of the Association of British Drivers, was dismissive. He said: ‘Drivers used to see a limit and know there was a high probability it was there for a reason. Nowadays limits are so often put in without good reason that drivers will simply ignore them.’
A spokesman for another campaign group, Safe Speed, said: ‘Routine speeding is actually a perfectly normal and acceptable – even vital – road user behaviour.
‘When there are hazards ahead we slow down. When there are no hazards ahead we speed up. If we replace this behaviour with rigid speed limit compliance drivers will become less effective at slowing down when necessary and crashes and deaths will increase.’