The number of drivers breaking the 30 mph speed limit dropped by a third in the period 1998-2010, according to a report co-published by the RAC Foundation and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS).
The report, Speed and Safety: Evidence from published data, found that in 1998, 69% of cars on 30 mph roads were travelling above the limit, but by 2010 the figure had fallen to 46%.
The report – published in August and authored by Dr Kit Mitchell – also shows that speeds on motorways have reduced. The percentage of cars exceeding 70 mph fell from 57% in 2003 to 49% in 2010.
Dr Mitchell notes that speed limit offences (fixed penalty notices, convictions in court and written warnings) in England and Wales have declined rapidly in the past few years after a large rise in the 1990s.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “There are two significant things about the fall in speeds. First, they predate the economic downturn and the recent high fuel costs. Second, there is an association between falling speeds in urban areas and falling fatality rates. It is particularly strong for pedestrians. The conclusion is clear. Whatever the cause of an accident the speed at which it happens will determine its severity.
“There is another interesting part of the story. Even as ministers discuss raising the motorway speed limit to 80 mph, drivers are actually cutting their speeds on this part of the road network.
“While this report only includes data up to 2010, recently released figures for 2011 underline the findings.”
Robert Gifford, executive director of PACTS, said: “This report brings together a number of data sources that help us to understand what is happening in the real world on our roads. Research shows a proven link between speed choice and crash involvement. If we can encourage drivers to drive within the speed limit, through both educational and enforcement-led interventions, we can continue to make our roads safer.”
Click here to read the full report.