The percentage of cars exceeding the speed limit rose on all road types during 2020 – as a result of lower traffic levels caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
That’s according to new Government statistics, which 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.
The stats show that in 2020, 53% of cars exceeded the speed limit on motorways, an increase from 50% in 2019.
They highlight a similar rise on National Speed Limit (NSL) single carriageways (up from 9% in 2019 to 12% in 2020) and on 30mph roads (up from 54% in 2019 to 56% in 2020).
The DfT says trends in speed limit compliance in 2020 coincided with the ‘exceptional changes’ in road traffic caused by Covid-19 lockdowns.
For example between April and June 2020 – when the first national lockdown predominantly took place – 17% of cars exceeded the limit on NSL roads and 63% on 30mph roads.
The DfT adds that without the Covid-19 impact on traffic levels, it would expect speed limit compliance to have remained in line with previous years.
Majority continue to exceed 20mph limits – but extra caution needed
The figures also show that 87% of cars exceeded the speed limit on roads with a 20mph limit in 2020 – with 20% breaking the limit by more than 10mph.
While these figures may seem alarming, the DfT stresses that free flowing conditions are not typical of most 20mph roads and as a result, must be ‘interpreted with additional caution’.
DfT guidance suggests that 20mph limits are most effective when they have traffic calming measures.
RAC expresses concern over ‘terrible’ lockdown legacy
The RAC says it would be ‘terrible’ if the lockdown legacy was an increase in the number of drivers who consistently speed.
It is calling for police forces to be given the resources to tackle the issue.
Simon Williams, RAC road safety spokesman, said: “These figures confirm that there were shocking levels of speeding during the first lockdown period in 2020, and it’s clear that some drivers dangerously took advantage of quieter roads to drive far faster than they would do in normal times.
“What’s particularly concerning were the levels of non-compliance on 20mph and 30mph roads, many of which are in residential areas and close to schools.
“If traffic volumes don’t return to pre-pandemic levels, it would be terrible if the lockdown legacy was an increase in the number of drivers who consistently speed.
“In short, speed kills and we can only hope that police forces across the country are able to put the resources in place to clamp down on dangerous drivers and help ensure the roads are safe for everyone.”