New Government figures show the proportion of cars exceeding the speed limit rose on all road types during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The statistics, published on 24 November, measure speed and compliance at sites where the road conditions are ‘free flowing’ – for example roads with no junctions, hills, sharp bends, speed enforcement cameras or other traffic calming measures.
They show that during Q2 2020 (April to June), 63% of cars exceeded the speed limit on 30mph roads – 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 NSL (national speed limit) single carriageway roads – up from 10% in Q2 2019 to 17% in Q2 2020.
Meanwhile the percentage rose slightly on motorways, up 1% to 53%.
The DfT says after ‘very little variation’ year-on-year, differences emerged as road traffic levels reduced sharply in late March after the lockdown was introduced on 23 March.
It adds that as restrictions eased later in quarter 2 (April to June), road traffic began to return to normal levels, and speed limit exceedance also started to return to levels more similar to 2019.
The RAC warns that empty roads should not be an excuse to drive dangerously.
Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, 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.”