Police have urged “selfish” motorists to stop taking advantage of quieter roads during the coronavirus lockdown by driving at “exceptionally high speed” because crashes take up vital resources.
Drivers in London this week have been caught doing 134mph in a 40mph zone and 76mph in a 50mph zone, while one road with a 20mph limit is seeing average speeds of 37mph.
This mirrors incidents recorded across the country, with several forces clocking motorists driving at more than twice the speed limit.
Detective Superintendent Andy Cox, head of the Metropolitan Police’s roads policing command, posted a video message on Twitter to “talk direct to the drivers of London”.
With some very high speeds in #London increasing risk of fatal & serious crashes which would add pressure to the #NHS #Police #Fire causing potential knock on impact to #Covid19 patients. I have recorded a message appealing direct to drivers to slow down, drive safely & lawfully. pic.twitter.com/dJyTMWzBhs— Andy Cox (@SuptAndyCox) March 26, 2020
He said: “Since we’ve had less congestion on our roads, we’ve seen some exceptionally high-speed driving.
“Those involved in a serious collision are likely to end up in hospital, depriving people suffering from Covid-19 of precious NHS resources, precious medical care and potentially hospital beds. The impact goes on and on.”
He described speeding incidents as “selfish acts”.
Department for Transport data shows that 186 people were killed and 1,505 were seriously injured in crashes on Britain’s roads in 2018 in which a driver exceeding the speed limit was a contributory factor.
Det Supt Cox declared that “my teams are out in force” and warned motorists they risk losing their licence if they are caught doing excessive speeds.
He added: “I urge you to drive safely, drive lawfully, keep a clean licence and respect at this precious moment our NHS, fire and police services.”
In last 24hrs @MPSRTPC #TrafficCops enforced utterly outrageous speeds. Including:— Andy Cox (@SuptAndyCox) March 26, 2020
â134mph in 40 (#A10)
â100mph in 70 (#A13)
â 76mph in 50 (#A12)
Greatly increased risk of serious crash effecting #NHS & #Police resource + hospital space & care. #Covid19 #CoronaVirusUK #London pic.twitter.com/WvM5Q1lg0U
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The message is clear, nobody should be driving unless absolutely necessary and when they do take to the roads they should be acting with the utmost care.
“The last thing the NHS needs now is to have to treat casualties caused by reckless and aggressive behaviour. The law is the law, whether or not the country is battling the coronavirus.”
The lack of traffic is indicated by figures from transport data analysts Inrix, which show that average speeds in London during the morning peak have risen from 15mph on a typical Tuesday and Wednesday to 21mph during the same days this week.
Other UK cities analysed for traffic speeds over the same period were Birmingham (up from 20mph to 25mph), Cardiff (from 18mph to 24mph), Edinburgh (from 18mph to 25mph), Glasgow (from 19mph to 24mph) and Manchester (from 20mph to 26mph).
Data firm Road Safety Analysis said it has separate evidence showing traffic levels on urban A roads have halved since March 18.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced sweeping new curbs on life in the UK on Monday.
He said “you must stay at home” in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus and reduce pressure on the NHS.