Reckless drivers have been accused of using the UK’s roads as a personal racetrack during lockdown, with some clocked by police at three times the limit.
Police have said they are stepping up speed patrols after seeing average speeds on some stretches increase by as much as 50 per cent as drivers take advantage of empty roads.
Detective Superintendent Andy Cox, road policing lead for the Metropolitan Police, told the Telegraph the force was launching a crackdown on speeders and fast-tracking them to court after seeing a rise in offences.
He told the paper: “In some roads where we have checks, the average speed has increased by more than 50 per cent and one 20mph road is averaging 40mph.
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“When we stop the drivers, they say it is the clear roads and that they didn’t expect us to be there because they thought we would be engaged with coronavirus-related issues."
While traffic volume has dropped by more than 60 per cent in recent weeks Greater Manchester Police has reported a 57 per cent increase in the number of drivers breaking the speed limit and anecdotal evidence gathered by the RAC suggests more than 40 per cent of drivers have witnessed an increase in speeding.
According to police figures one London driver recently hit 134mph in a 40mph zone, while another was clocked at 73mph in a 20mph zone. In the worst case recorded by the Met since the start of lockdown one driver was spotted doing 151mph on the M1.
Greater Manchester Police also reported cases of one driver hitting up to 115mph in a 40mph zone and another reaching nearly 130mph on the M62.
Det Sup Cox said: “Such behaviour is totally unacceptable and increases the chances of a serious collision which puts even more pressure on the NHS and emergency services.”
RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: “A significant number of irresponsible drivers are taking advantage of quiet ‘lockdown’ roads by driving far too fast, putting lives unnecessarily at risk.
“Since the Government told the nation to stay at home many roads have become almost deserted so it’s a concern this is being seen by some as an opportunity to illegally ignore speed limits.
“It would only take a fraction of a second when driving well over the speed limit for something terrible to happen. The last thing the NHS needs as it works night and day to help patients with coronavirus is to have to deal with people injured in avoidable road traffic collisions caused by motorists driving far too fast.”
Edmund King, AA president, said: “Just because the M1 had no speed limit when it opened does not mean that drivers today should treat it like a racetrack just because traffic levels are at historic lows. There is no excuse for speeding even if the roads and motorways are almost empty.”