Speeding motorists double during coronavirus lockdown

Behaviour has apparently become so bad that the police are launching a new road crime team, with drivers caught travelling at up to 151mph...


There has been a massive decrease in the volume of traffic on UK roads since the coronavirus lockdown began on 23 March, yet the number of people being caught speeding is up by as much as 57%.

This figure was recorded in Greater Manchester in the week starting 30 March (the most recent for which statistics are available). And while the national numbers weren’t quite so bad, speeding offences were still up by an average of 36%, even though some estimates say traffic is down by nearly 75% to a level only previously seen in 1955.

Indeed, it seems that some motorists are taking advantage of the empty roads and breaking speed limits by staggering amounts. Police reported one instance of a Tesla driver doing 134mph in a 40mph zone and another of a car caught at 151mph on the M1.  


Tragically, eight people have died in road traffic accidents in London since the lockdown, and the increase in speeding has prompted the Metropolitan Police to launch a new road crime team to tackle the problem.  

Breakdown and road safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist is calling for drivers to watch their speed at present. Its road safety officer, Neil Worth, said: “Police chiefs across the country have been sharing examples of shocking behaviour by drivers who appear to be using the quieter roads as an opportunity to flout the speed limits.”

Accidental speeders

However, not all speeders are breaking the law on purpose, as Thatcham Research’s director of research, Matthew Avery. explains: “It’s much easier for drivers to underestimate their speed when the roads are empty and there are fewer cars to measure their own speed against. 

“Most drivers don’t set out to break the speed limit but can find that their speed gradually creeps around the dial. However, this is dangerous not only for the driver but also for other road users – many of whom are key workers travelling to fulfil essential roles.”


The road safety organisation has highlighted five dangers of speeding that drivers should be aware of when driving during the lockdown:

1. High speeds make it easier to misjudge the road. If you’re speeding on a road that is normally busy, you might underestimate bends, parked cars or other pinch points.

2. Reduced reaction times; the typical stopping distance when you’re travelling at 70mph can be as much as 96 metres. And vulnerable road users also have less time to hear and react when you’re driving above the limit.

3. A false sense of security; quieter roads could lull you into ‘autopilot’ driving mode where you’re not concentrating fully, making it harder to act decisively should something happen.

4. Having an accident during lockdown creates an unnecessary drain on the police and NHS. 

5. Even exceeding the speed limit by a small amount can have a devastating effect. Hitting a pedestrian at 40mph gives them a 10% chance of surviving, but if you hit a pedestrian at 30mph, their chance of survival increases to 80%.

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