With less traffic on the roads leading to increased vehicle speeds, campaigners are urging drivers to show restraint and calling for Government action to lower speeds.
The campaign group 20’s Plenty for Us has launched a campaign, ‘supported by leading doctors’, calling on the UK Government to introduce an ‘emergency national urban limit’ of 20mph.
20’s Plenty for Us says ‘the doctors we are relying on’ are calling on the Government to change the national speed limit from 30mph to 20mph as part of their ‘lower the baseline’ load on the NHS campaign.
The campaign group says setting a national 20mph limit is an ‘affordable, practical and cost-effective step … to help the NHS and support our doctors at this critical time’.
Rod King MBE, founder of 20’s Plenty for Us, said: “It is in the Government’s power and interest to change all 30mph limits to 20mph by making appropriate public announcements, without any need to change road signs.
“The precedent already exists to change national speed limits in an emergency. The Government changed national speed limits in the 1974 fuel crisis to save petrol and it must do this in the 2020 Covid-19 crisis to save lives.
“This move will match the mood of all of us to do everything possible for our NHS resources and staff.”
‘Shocking speeds’ on London’s roads
Transport for London (TfL) has issued a reminder to road users that, despite less traffic on London’s roads, ‘the speed limit always applies and speeding is not acceptable’.
TfL says that ‘dangerous driving is putting additional strain on the NHS’. In some areas average speeds have increased by over 50%, and the Met Police have recorded ‘shocking speeds of over 130mph’ during enforcement activity.
The latest statistics show a 68% reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured on London’s roads since 20 March.
However, TfL says that while there are fewer reported casualties, provisional data shows that when collisions occur, they are more likely to be serious or fatal, with drivers and motorcyclists showing the least significant fall in the most severe injuries.
Seven people have died on London’s roads since 20 March, including three motorcyclists and a cyclist.
Supt Andy Cox, from the Met’s Roads and Traffic Policing Command, said: “With the impact of COVID-19 taking effect, we are seeing less congestion on London’s roads; however, frustratingly evidence is emerging that this has led some drivers to drive at extreme speed, risking their life and that of other roads users. For example, we’ve recorded 134mph in a 40mph zone.
“All enforcement zones have seen a rise in driving speeds. This includes 20mph zones where many key workers are walking or cycling.
“Such driving behaviour is totally unacceptable and speeding increases the risk of a serious collision which will further impact on the NHS, fire and police services, abstracting them from working on COVID-19-related issues and potentially depriving patients of access to intensive care facilities and medical care.
“With this in mind, our roads policing officers are actively patrolling priority roads across London and robustly enforcing ‘Fatal 4’ offences.
Excessive speed leading to ‘more severe injuries’
A news item on the CIHT website also suggests that ‘injuries may become more severe as a result of excessive speed’ due to fewer vehicles on the roads at the moment.
The article quotes Dan Campsall from Agilysis who, speaking during a recent webinar, suggested that reduced flows and less congestion could lead to increased speeds and “therefore we might see a slightly higher proportion of crashes involving a higher severity of injury”.
However, he also added that lower casualty counts overall are likely due to the restrictions on travel. CIHT says the latest Government data shows that motor vehicle use is ‘down by more than 60%’ compared to the middle of March.