More than half of drivers exceeded the speed limit on 30mph roads during 2019, new figures show.
Department for Transport (DfT) analysis of these roads across Britain found that 54% of cars were driven too fast during free-flow conditions last year.
This is compared with 50% on motorways and 9% on 60mph roads.
A fifth of cars exceeded 30mph limits by more than 5mph, while 6% were recorded doing at least 40mph. The average speed driven in the zones – which are generally in built-up areas – was 31mph.
Some 86% of cars were found to exceed 20mph limits but the DfT said this figure should be “interpreted with additional caution”. This is because many 20mph roads in quieter, residential areas have traffic calming measures, making them unsuitable for the research.
RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: “These statistics are alarming. We know that during the days of strict lockdown there was a real prevalence of speeding in built-up areas.
“Breaking speed limits is illegal and puts everyone using the road in danger. It’s vital the Government’s review into road policing addresses the elephant in the room – a lack of enforcement.”
Road Safety Minister Baroness Vere said: “Speeding is illegal, reckless and puts people’s lives at unnecessary risk. That is why there are tough penalties and strict enforcement measures in place for those who disobey the law.
“We know it’s just as crucial though to change attitudes that lead to dangerous driving.
“Our road safety statement and its two-year action plan include aims to tackle speeding, while our Think! campaign targets risky driving behaviour by challenging social norms among high-risk young men.”
Let’s look at the bigger picture
Obviously speed limits are there for a reason, but the headline figure of “54% or drivers speeding on 30mph roads” is not necessarily as terrible as it is made out to be. Incidentally, the data is almost exactly the same as the same report last year (which covered 2018 traffic).
Just looking at the numbers discussed above, 74% of drivers were recorded at 34mph or less, with 20% doing 35-39mph and 6% recorded at at least 40mph. What is not mentioned is whether these speeds were brief spikes or sustained periods of time above the limit.
The average speed for the roads measured in this research was 31mph, so clearly the vast majority of drivers are respecting 30mph limits. Most police forces up and down the country wouldn’t bother to even administer a warning to a driver recorded at 31mph, let alone issue a penalty. Even at 34mph, which covers three-quarters of drivers, you’d probably struggle to find a police officer who would pull over a car to issue a penalty notice, and most speed camera installations have built-in allowances that won’t penalise drivers at less than 35mph.
Obviously you’re never going to get anyone from the government to say that even 1mph over the limit is acceptable, but suggestions that this data represents wholesale levels of “reckless” or “dangerous” behaviour are probably somewhat overblown.
Stuart Masson, Editor