MORE than half of cars exceeded speed limits in towns and on motorways during 2020, even as roads were emptier due to the lockdown, official figures show.

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) speed compliance figures for Great Britain in 2020 found that 53 per cent of cars exceeded the limit on motorways while 56 per cent broke the limit on 30mph roads.

Some 12 per cent of cars went faster than they should on national speed limit (NSL) single carriageways.

During the pre Covid-19 and lockdown conditions of last year, there were 50 per cent of cars which broke the speed limit on motorways in 2019, along with nine per cent of cars on national speed limit single carriageways and 54 per cent on 30mph roads.


The RAC said some drivers had taken advantage of quieter roads to drive “far faster than they would do in normal times”.

Simon Williams, RAC road safety spokesman, said: “These figures confirm that there were shocking levels of speeding during the first lockdown period in 2020.

“What’s particularly concerning were the levels of non-compliance on 20 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.”

There was an immediate big drop in daily traffic levels as the UK entered its first national lockdown in March 2020.

Traffic levels then recovered slowly, before dropping again in the autumn and winter when further local and national restrictions were imposed.

The DfT data found that six per cent of cars broke the speed limit by more than 10mph on 30mph roads, while two per cent and 13 per cent of cars exceeded the limit by more than 10mph on NSL single carriageway roads and motorways respectively.

Researchers said the statistics were collected on roads that had “free-flowing” conditions and did not include sites where the drivers’ behaviour might be affected by factors such as speed cameras, junctions, hills and sharp bends.

Speeding behaviour mostly worsened during the night across most vehicle types.

The greatest differences between speeding during the day and night were found on 30mph roads. These are generally the roads where drivers could be faced with higher numbers of pedestrians.

Speed limits tended to be broken less during the rush hour and “due to road traffic levels dropping during periods of 2020, peak rush-hour periods were less pronounced in comparison to previous years”, it was found.

Neil Greig, of the independent road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, said: “It is worrying that one in two drivers on motorways and 30mph roads exceeded the speed limit in 2020 when they were given greater opportunity.

“The increases are not as marked as we might have expected, particularly on rural 60mph roads, so there is some positive news here that many drivers can still be influenced and help us all ‘build back safer’. ”

He said the aim of making speeding as anti-social as drink-driving “looks far from being achieved”.