There was a 71% spike in the number of speeding drivers pulled over by the UK’s largest police force when the coronavirus lockdown started, new figures show.
Metropolitan Police officers issued 3,282 Traffic Offence Reports (TORs) to drivers suspected of exceeding the limit during April, according to data obtained by the PA news agency through a Freedom of Information request.
That is compared with just 1,922 during April 2019.
They would be really surprised to see us thereDetective Superintendent Andy Cox
Drivers who receive a TOR for speeding are sent on an educational course, fined or summoned to appear in court, depending on the severity of the case.
A further 14,736 speedsters were caught by London’s roadside cameras in April 2020, the first full month of the coronavirus lockdown.
Kent Police and Derbyshire Constabulary also recorded year-on-year rises in speeding incidents, up 53% and 41% respectively.
The majority of forces who provided data to PA recorded an overall decrease, amid a drop in traffic of around two-thirds as people were urged to stay at home.
But 13 of those force areas did see an increase in the speed of the fastest driver caught, including Dyfed-Powys, North Yorkshire, Police Scotland and West Mercia.
Detective Superintendent Andy Cox of the Metropolitan Police explained that many drivers caught speeding during the early weeks of lockdown did not expect officers to be patrolling near-deserted roads.
He said: “Because of Covid and the demands upon the emergency services at that time, I think there might have been a consideration to remove some assets and deploy elsewhere. But we didn’t do that in London.
“Early on, for some people driving at extreme speeds, they would be really surprised to see us there.
“They would actually come out and say ‘we thought you’d be busy dealing with Covid’.
“Maybe some people (tried to take) advantage because congestion was less and thought they’d get away with it.”
Trackers based around the capital showed that even average speeds on many roads were above the limit.
Mr Cox explained that the Met identified “a particular issue” with speeding on 20mph and 30mph roads, putting vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists at risk.
“The most frequent factor for a fatal or life changing injury crash is the speed of the vehicle,” he said.
“You can potentially deprive Covid patients of NHS care. Dealing with a very serious collision is a significant obstruction in terms of resources and time.”
Mr Cox added that he wants speeding to be seen “as socially unacceptable” as drink-driving.
He said many people who would stop a driver getting behind the wheel after drinking too much would not challenge someone over their speed.
“They haven’t quite worked out that a speeding driver is arguably more dangerous.
“I see more fatal and more life-changing collisions through speed than I do through drink driving.
“I think the social conscience needs to change around it to actually address the issue of speeding because there’s not sufficient social condemnation of someone speeding.”