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Speed warning issued to stop ‘race track’ driving on quiet bank holiday roads

Ten people have died on London roads since March 23.

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Traffic on the A13 near Beckton, east London (PA)

Traffic on the A13 near Beckton, east London (PA)

Traffic on the A13 near Beckton, east London (PA)

Police have issued a speed warning ahead of the bank holiday weekend as the death toll on London’s roads during lockdown rose to double figures.

On Thursday, Scotland Yard announced 10 people had been killed in road crashes since emergency measures came in on March 23.

Extreme speeding enforcement in London since the lockdown had surged by 142%, compared with the same period last year, police said.

Officers issued more than 4,000 enforcement notices since lockdown compared with the same period last year of over just over 2,300 – a 71% increase in speeding enforcement compared with the same period in 2019 despite 40% less traffic on the road.

Detective Superintendent Andy Cox said: “The majority of Londoners have followed Government advice and have stayed at home.

“However, a small number of individuals have gone against the advice and have used this opportunity to abuse the less congested roads and drive at excess speed and in many cases extreme speeds.

“In doing so, their actions increase the risk to their own safety and that of other road users and in the event of a collision can lead to devastating consequences for themselves, and bereaved family and friends.

“Going into the bank holiday weekend, we urge drivers to only make the most essential journeys and to do so sensibly, safely and lawfully.

“During these unprecedented times, dealing with road traffic collisions puts a lot of additional, yet avoidable pressure on the NHS and other emergency services, who are working on the frontline 24 hours a day to keep London safe.”

“Traffic officers continue to police the roads, 24/7, and will use enforcement against those breaking the law. Our message is simple; slow down, respect the speed limits, you’re not only risking your life but those of other people.”

Garden designer Helen Birch knows of the added complications of traffic-related injuries during lockdown after her foot was crushed under a wheel as she crossed a road in north London just before Covid-19 emergency measures came in.

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Road crash victim Helen Birch (Handout/PA)

Road crash victim Helen Birch (Handout/PA)

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Road crash victim Helen Birch (Handout/PA)

She is now recovering from an agonising open ankle fracture, which is potentially life-changing.

After spending five days in hospital, Ms Birch was trapped at home for five weeks, unable to weight-bear on her leg, and her rehabilitation has stalled because of the lockdown.

She said: “Understandably, NHS physios have been deployed to helping patients in the ICU, as have some consultants and other medical staff.

“Normally, with this type of injury, you’d be seen every two weeks in hospital, at least at first.

“Obviously non-urgent appointments have all been cancelled and I had to wait five weeks before staff were free to see me. Now it will be another three months before I can see a specialist, and before any physio is available.

Our NHS teams are working tirelessly to help anyone who needs us, but if we can prevent additional injuries and fatalities, it will save further heartbreak at this incredibly difficult timeAnne Weaver, head of trauma at the Royal London Hospital

“This would normally be a very busy time for me work-wise and because I work outdoors, I would have been able to work safely and within social distancing rules.

“I’ve had to turn down work. Doubly frustrating is that because of my injury, I can’t even use the time to do the things I don’t usually have time for, all because of someone driving dangerously on near-empty roads.”

Anne Weaver, head of trauma at the Royal London Hospital and consultant for the London Air Ambulance, urged drivers and riders to abide by speed limits and look out for pedestrians and cyclists.

She said: “In the weeks since lockdown, I have personally treated several patients who were cycling and have been seriously injured or killed because another road user has not seen them or has driven recklessly on roads that are quieter and more open than usual.

“Until you’ve actually been into the hospitals and particularly the critical care units, you can’t imagine the pressure hospital staff are under trying to save people with coronavirus.

“Our NHS teams are working tirelessly to help anyone who needs us, but if we can prevent additional injuries and fatalities, it will save further heartbreak at this incredibly difficult time.”

Jenny Buchanan, a partner at Fieldfisher law firm, said: “It’s completely senseless that anyone would do anything to further pressurise our overstretched health and emergency services so needlessly.

“A lot of the people out on the roads are health care workers cycling, walking and running to work.

“To endanger them, and anyone else, by going out on the roads and driving like you’re on some kind of race track is beyond words.”

The road traffic collisions expert added: “Perhaps if they knew the type of injuries we deal with following road traffic collisions – people having to have a leg amputated or left seriously brain-injured – they’d think twice about behaving like the worst type of idiot.”

The police are currently investigating the collision in which Ms Birch was hurt.

AA president Edmund King said: “It is likely that more drivers will be venturing out from their virtual hibernation as talk of lockdown lifting ramps up.

“It is vital that all drivers ensure that both their cars and themselves are well-prepared for driving. The fact that there will be less traffic on the roads doesn’t mean that drivers should treat the roads as a race track.

“Indeed rusty drivers should drive slower than normal as our analysis suggests that 36% more people will be out cycling, running and walking.

“The last thing careless and dangerous drivers should be doing is putting more pressure on the NHS, ambulance services and potentially taking up precious hospital beds.”

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