A new statistical release from the Department for Transport (DfT) has highlighted an increase in speeding on UK roads during the first Coronavirus lockdown.
It follows numerous reports from road safety organisations and Police forces across the country that speeding had become more prolific as the nation’s roads emptied in line with national restrictions.
The latest data shows that 63% of cars exceeded the speed limit on 30mph roads during Q2 (April to June) 2020, compared to 56% during the same period in 2019.
There was also a 7% rise in the percentage of cars exceeding the speed limit on 60mph single carriageway roads – up from 10% in Q2 2019 to 17% in Q2 2020.
The percentage of speeding motorists rose by 1% on motorways, to 53%.
As restrictions eased later in Q2, road traffic began to return to normal levels, and speed limit exceedance also started to return to levels more similar to 2019.
The DfT report stated: “The annual speed compliance statistics show very little variation in compliance with the speed limit from year to year, so without the coronavirus pandemic, we would expect speed limit compliance to have remained in line with previous years.”
The worst speeder in the first three weeks of the lockdown was caught in West Yorkshire driving at 151mph on the M62 motorway, according the RAC. This was 11mph faster than the next fastest recorded which was 140mph on the A14 in Suffolk.
Six forces – The Met, Northamptonshire, Gwent, Staffordshire, Kent and Humberside – all caught motorists driving at speeds in excess of 130mph and three others – Police Scotland, The Met and Lancashire – recorded drivers at speeds over 120mph.
The highest speed seen in a 40mph limit was 134mph – 94mph above the limit – recorded by the Met on the A10 in North London, while Cambridgeshire Police detected a car being driven at 73mph in a 30mph area. Derbyshire Constabulary also caught a driver going at 108mph on the M1 – 68mph above the speed limit. The only other force whose highest speed was in a 40mph limit was Bedfordshire – here the driver was clocked at 104mph on Airport Way in Luton.
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “This data confirms what we previously suspected: lower traffic volumes sadly led to some shocking levels of speed limit disobedience, particularly on 30mph limit roads. This dangerous behaviour unnecessarily put lives at risk during the first national lockdown when more people were walking and cycling.
"Empty roads should not be an excuse to drive dangerously and it would be frightening to think one of the legacies of the lockdown is a complete disregard for speed limits and other road users’ safety.”