The number of vehicles exceeding the speed limit increased last year as drivers took advantage of lower traffic levels.

Statistics from the Department for Transport show that, in free-flowing traffic conditions, 56 per cent of cars exceeded the speed limit on 30mph roads, compared with 53 per cent on motorways (70mph) and 12 per cent on national speed limit single carriageway roads (60mph).

The difference is most stark when the first coronavirus lockdown was put in place in March 2020, with traffic dropping to less than a quarter of typical levels. The data show that the number of vehicles exceeding the speed limit on 30mph and 60mph roads immediately spiked, slowly tapering off as traffic levels returned to normal.

(Department for Transport)

Motorists speeding on the motorway stayed at a fairly consistent level throughout the year.

When it comes to the times of day motorists are more likely to speed, 30mph routes saw a large spike in speeding overnight, as there are fewer pedestrians and other road users. A similar but less pronounced difference can be seen on 60mph routes.

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams 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 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.”

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