There are other questions about why people feel they are able to do this. Is it because those using the roads now are less risk averse and are more willing to travel at high speeds, or are people speeding because they think that the chances of detection are lower as the police concentrate on other duties? There has been concern amongst some within the road safety sector that police enforcement resources may not be being deployed during this period of lockdown. It is entirely understandable why those directing resources would not want to be being seen to be undertaking non-essential services and enforcement hasn’t always been popular. I would argue, however, that traffic enforcement is essential, especially at a time when we see there are increasing vehicle speeds coupled with greater numbers of pedestrians and cyclists using the road network.
Although this study only looked at a small number of urban roads in 30 mph limits there are similar studies being undertaken by fellow road safety analysts around the country, often looking at rural roads. I have been lucky enough to see data for a sample national speed limit single carriageway road that demonstrate very similar changes in speed choice. This road previously had traffic flows between 10,000 and 12,000 per day and typically only saw around half a percent of motorists exceeding the speed limit. Now traffic flows have reduced to around 4,000 to 5,000 per day, the percentage of people exceeding the limit now ranges between 5 and 8% post lockdown.
There is an opportunity for collaboration between authorities who hold this information to enable us to understand what is happening on the roads now, and to inform future enforcement strategies. I will be seeking to work with fellow road safety experts around the country to produce a paper in May which tries to understand what's happening in more depth and in more areas of the country.