Police forces across the UK have today launched a three-week campaign targeting speeding drivers in a bid to keep vulnerable road users, including cyclists, safe as the country gradually eases out of lockdown.
Co-ordinated by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), the first phase of the campaign, timed to coincide with an expected rise in motor traffic, has seen forces across the country take to social media to remind motorists that they must keep within the speed limit, with the message, “Slow down and save lives.”
Today we launched a new speed enforcement operation. With lockdown rules easing in England, we know more and more people will be out driving. The message from police is simple: slow down, save lives. https://t.co/mQJHZskN3g pic.twitter.com/2ALCURndzR
— National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) (@PoliceChiefs) May 18, 2020
The second phase, beginning next Monday 25 May, will involve forces engaging in visible speed enforcement activity for the following fortnight, with an emphasis on roads and areas where speeding is a known problem, or that have a history of serious road traffic incidents.
The initiative follows what has been termed “extreme speeding” in many places across the country by drivers taking advantage of empty roads to break the speed limit.
Detective Superintendent Andy Cox, the lead officer for Vision Zero at the Metropolitan Police, has regularly tweeted details of the number of drivers caught speeding in London, plus the maximum speeds recorded, broken down by what the relevant speed limit was.
Last week Traffic officers enforced 1,379 speeding offences in #London which compares to 297 the same week in 2019 (up 464%!).
So 1,379 selfish and reckless drivers prepared to risk theirs & other road users safety. Zone highs:-
*36 100mph+ pic.twitter.com/OQN93SmT5H
— Andy Cox (@SuptAndyCox) May 18, 2020
Last week, for example, traffic officers dealt with 1,379 speeding drivers, a near fivefold increase on the same week last year, including 36 who were driving at 100mph or more – one of them hitting 110mph in a 50mph zone. The highest speed recorded in a 20mph zone, meanwhile, was 48mph.
West Mercia Police Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, roads policing lead for the NPCC, said: “With the gradual move out of lockdown and with traffic volumes starting to increase, this national operation is an important way of highlighting the dangers of speeding, particularly when so many people have not been out on the roads for quite some time.
“Unsurprisingly, the lockdown saw very quiet roads. Many forces reported increased speeding in a general sense and some forces reported instances of very excessive speeding. It is also of particular note that we have seen an increase in pedal cyclists at this time, many of whom may be unfamiliar with busier roads. Pedestrians and runners have also got used to empty roads.
“Put this together with better weather, lighter evenings, motorcyclists itching to ride out across our country roads and you have the concerning combination of factors for a significant increase in people being killed or seriously injured,” he continued. “I am determined for this not to be the case.”
According to the NPCC, speeding is believed to be a significant factor in 17 fatalities and 126 serious injuries on the country’s roads each month, on average, and the organisation highlights that braking distances increase significantly with speed – for example, in a 30mph zone, a motorist driving just 5mph above the speed limit will need an extra 21 feet to bring their vehicle to a halt.
Chief Constable Bangham added: “Speeding kills, and driving within the speed limits makes our roads safer. Please slow down and save lives.”
Individual forces are also alerting local media outlets to the campaign so that the message can reach as many motorists as possible that they must keep within the speed limit and be aware of cyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable people on the roads.
In a press release, Inspector Kirsty Clough of Warwickshire Police said “This is particularly important at the moment as vehicles are now sharing the roads with more people who have turned to cycling, running or walking for their exercise during the current pandemic.
“As more people return to work, our roads will become busier not only with traffic but with some people also choosing to walk, run or cycle to work.
“Driving safely within speed limits helps to keep all road users safe and to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads,” she added.
“We also want to support new road users, in particular pedal cyclists to keep them safe on the roads.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.