Increased speeding 'deeply worrying' when more cyclists on roads

The proportion of drivers breaking the speed limit in Scotland has increased from one in five to one in three since lockdown.

Police Scotland said drivers should be more cautious to avoid putting more pressure on the NHS.

Vehicle speeds across the Scottish trunk road network have shown a rise from fewer than 20 per cent speeding in early March before travel restrictions were introduced to up to 34 per cent by late April.

They were recorded by traffic counters, mainly in 30mph and 40mph zones.

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The increase came as Police Scotland revealed to the RAC motoring group it had caught a driver speeding at 128mph on a 70mph section of the A77 near Prestwick in South Ayrshire.

Police Scotland said speed was a significant factor in serious crashes.

That was followed by complaints of large numbers of motorcyclists speeding last weekend on rural roads, especially in the north west, after a slight easing of the lockdown.

The increased speeding has come on far emptier roads, with traffic levels falling by up to 75 per cent at the start of the lockdown.

The Scottish Greens, who revealed the figures obtained from a written Parliamentary question, called for speed limits to be reviewed.

The Scottish Government’s development body Cycling Scotland expressed alarm at the speeding figures.

Chief executive Keith Irving said: “While the actual number of vehicles speeding has fallen, it is deeply worrying that the proportion of vehicles speeding has increased in lockdown.

“The data shows that a fifth of vehicles on trunk roads were observed speeding in early March and that had increased to a third of all vehicles in May.

“Dangerous driving behaviour puts everyone at risk - people in cars, on bikes and on foot - and it cannot be accepted.

“It’s especially concerning given more people are cycling, walking or wheeling around their communities at the moment.

“We need to enable travel by bike as we emerge from lockdown, and to do that our roads have to be safer and feel safer.”

Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: “At a time when more people than ever are walking and cycling, it is unacceptable there has been persistent dangerous driving.

“As traffic levels build up again, this could present even more of a danger to those taking their daily exercise close to home, as per the government’s guidelines.

“That is why the Scottish Government needs to review speed limits, not just in our cities but also on minor rural roads, which often do not have pavements but are important for walkers and cyclists.

“A number of rural councils are considering ‘Quiet Lane’ designations on rural roads of 40mph where motor vehicles share the space with walkers and cyclists.

"More of these are needed to lock in safety and health benefits.”

Drivers ‘travelling too quickly’

Jodi Gordon, a partner at law firm Road Traffic Accident Law Scotland, said: “We have continued to see a significant number of road traffic-related injuries to cyclists and motorcyclists during lockdown.

“The majority of these incidents have occurred at pinch-points such as junctions and roundabouts where drivers have been either travelling too quickly or simply not been looking out for vulnerable road users.

“The apparent ‘open roads’ appear to have tempted motorised road users to travel too quickly and the stats confirm this.

“However, rather than a review of speed limits, we would rather there was enforcement of the current limits, especially in built-up areas where there has been an increase in active travel [walking and cycing].

Police Scotland said the Covid-19 crisis meant drivers must take extra care.

‘Clear risks’

Head of road policing Chief Superintendent Louise Blakelock said: “With the current challenges facing us, we need to protect the NHS.

“Therefore, drivers need to be more cautious and consider other road users.

“Despite the clear risks involved, a minority of drivers are still willing to take their chance.

"The dangers of speeding are well known and have been shown time and again as being a significant factor in fatal and serious injury collisions.

“Speeding increases your risk of being involved in a collision.

However, the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency sought to downplay the significance of the figures.

It said there had been a “slight increase in the proportion of those speeding excessively”.

But a spokesperson said they “indicate a significant decrease in speeding vehicles since lockdown commenced in Scotland.

“We are continuing to work closely with our road safety partners, including Police Scotland, to encourage improved driver behaviour and speed limit compliance.”

The agency said road crashes caused by speeding “will draw emergency services away from vital tasks directly related to the current pandemic”.

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