There is mounting evidence that more drivers are breaking the speed limit as traffic levels fall during the coronavirus crisis.
New research from the RAC, published today, suggests that almost half (44%) of people in the UK say they have seen more drivers speeding now than they did before the Government introduced the lockdown.
Roads with 30mph limits appear to be the most abused, with almost a quarter (23%) of the 2,020 people questioned by the RAC saying they had seen drivers breaking the law by going too fast.
One-in-seven (15%) said they had seen drivers breaking both 20mph and 40mph limits, whereas in 50mph limits one-in-10 (10%) felt there was an increase in speeders.
In 60mph and 70mph limits, the increase in speeding incidents is far less pronounced, with 6% and 5% respectively reporting they had seen these limits being broken – but this still represents an increase in observed speeding on these roads compared to before the lockdown.
Just under one-in-10 (8%) people claimed they have seen more drivers using handheld mobile phones at the wheel than they would in normal, non-lockdown conditions.
Worryingly, one-in-20 (5%) of those surveyed believed they had witnessed vehicles racing on public roads.
With Department for Transport (DfT) data showing motor vehicle use in Great Britain has fallen by two thirds over the past month, low traffic levels have clearly played their part.
RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: “Since the Government told the nation to stay at home many roads have become almost deserted so it’s a concern this is being seen by some as an opportunity to illegally ignore speed limits.
“It would only take a fraction of a second when driving well over the speed limit for something terrible to happen.
“Couple this behaviour with the fact there are many cyclists on our roads and more people are having to walk in the road to maintain a safe distance from others on pavements and you have a recipe for disaster.”
Evidence from police forces across the country appear to back up RAC’s speeding survey.
Greater Manchester Police says it has seen an 57% increase in vehicles travelling above the speed limit over the past few weeks. It has caught 6,200 drivers breaking the speed limit since Monday, March 23, when the lockdown was introduced.
RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: “The frightening conclusion from our research is that a significant number of irresponsible drivers are taking advantage of quiet ‘lockdown’ roads by driving far too fast, putting lives unnecessarily at risk.”
He continued: “The last thing the NHS needs as it works night and day to help patients with coronavirus is to have to deal with people injured in avoidable road traffic collisions caused by motorists driving far too fast.”
While there are fewer drivers on the road, it appears police speed traps are more needed now than ever as some of the speeds in built-up areas appear to be excessive, suggests Williams.
Some police forces, including Greater Manchester and The Met, have already announced crackdowns. “It looks as though a similar approach needs to be taken in other parts of the country,” he said.
“It seems very wrong that people who drive so far above the limit should get away scot-free especially during a national emergency.”