Avon and Somerset Police have stepped up traffic patrols having seen the weekly number of complaints around speeding double in the weeks during lockdown. The dramatic increase comes as some drivers choose to abuse quieter roads by driving well in excess of speed limits, putting other road users including families and cyclists taking daily exercise at risk.
From 23 March to 22 April, Avon and Somerset Police’s Traffic Units detected 1,391 drivers exceeding the posted speed limit, including travelling over 45 mph in a 20 mph zone, and over 70 mph in a 30 mph zone. Of this figure, 144 were high end offences with motorists travelling so fast that they will automatically face prosecution due to the severity of their offences.
However in carrying out high visibility patrols to detect and discourage speeding motorists in areas where communities have raised concerns, police officers and staff are facing unacceptable hostility, abuse and obstruction. This comes as they put themselves on the front line to help save lives put at risk by dangerous driving.
Despite traffic on the roads falling by around 65 per cent in the early weeks of lockdown, the volume of recorded offences has remained consistent and those offending are doing so at far higher speeds then normal.
Unacceptable speeds on rural roads increases the potential for collisions and fatalities which will add strain on an already stretched NHS fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Police are reminding motorists to make only essential journeys and slow down to avoid putting themselves and others at risk.
Unnecessary journeys mean more visits to petrol stations and greater risk of breakdowns, all increasing unnecessary interaction at a time when the public is being asked to stay home and save lives.
Avon and Somerset Police Road Safety Manager Trevor Simpson said: “We would hope that at a time when the whole country is being called on to unite in staying home and protecting ourselves, each other and the NHS, prevalent speeding would not be an issue to which we would have to dedicate valuable police resource.
“Sadly it has become evident through the high number of reports we are receiving that a minority of people are going against the advice and causing danger to themselves and others.
“We urge people to stay home and avoid all non-essential journeys. Good weather, quiet roads, a need for a change of scenery or simply wanting to get “out and about” are not acceptable reasons to get behind the wheel.
“Where journeys are essential – for example essential work which can’t be done from home, a necessary food shop or to care for someone vulnerable – we urge people to stay local, take extra care and respect speed limits. Higher speed inevitably means higher risk.”
Mr. Simpson also addressed the hostility and abuse directed at officers and staff.
“We have been asked; “Have we got nothing better to do?”. The answer to that is that our role is primarily to protect and serve our communities and we will robustly police and challenge dangerous driving that puts others at risk. There can be no greater responsibility in the current climate than protecting the NHS and other road users.
“We want to drive home the message that speeding is unjustifiable and unacceptable, not only in terms of breaking the law, but to the great majority of the British public who are respecting the rules and avoiding non-essential travel in order to help us all get to the other side of this pandemic as quickly as possible.”
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “Speeding is never acceptable but especially in the current circumstances. Although there might be less cars on the road as people are only making essential journeys, this does not justify speeding; the speed limit is still the same.
“Our officers and staff are working hard to ensure everyone adheres to the speed limit if they need to make an essential journey. They are there to protect you, protect others and should be treated with respect. Let’s remember that speeding puts yourself and others at risk, and this is an additional strain on emergency services that are already working so hard to protect us from the coronavirus.”
Speeding can be reported through Avon and Somerset’s website at: www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/speedingconcern or via 999 in an emergency and where there is danger to life.