A new study from insurer Direct Line found that half of UK drivers think that speeding is acceptable and the majority of those spoken to admitted to speeding. The survey spoke to 2,000 motorists and found that 50% of them saw nothing wrong in speeding. It begs the question, does the UK have a problem with speeding and are we choosing to ignore it as a nation?
The Direct Line survey also showed that 78% of drivers admitted to speeding at some point, with 5% saying that they break the law every time that they get behind the wheel. Some of the most common ‘acceptable’ speeding offences include doing 79mph in a 70mph zone, 56mph in a 50mph zone and 26mph in a 20mph zone.
The impressions of what is ‘okay’ regarding speeding is conveyed in the stats for people with speeding fines. The survey found that nearly two-fifths of the drivers said they had a speeding conviction and the most common of these were for doing 37mph in a 30mph zone and 61mph in a 50mph area.
When asked why they had broken the speed limit, just over half of the survey group (51%) said that it was because they were unaware of how fast they were travelling. Another third (34%) said that they were purposefully speeding because the roads were empty. And 19% said the reason was that they were running late, 14% said they were caught out in an area they thought didn’t have speed cameras.
A growing problem
Speeding is apparently a growing problem around the UK. According to the latest stats released towards the end of last year, a total of 1.97 million fixed penalty notices were issued in 2016, a rise of 25,000 on the previous year and a massive 107,000 on the 2014 figure.
It means that one in three UK motorists are being fined every year, mostly due to the rising number of automated speed cameras around the UK. The figures also include the people who opt to do speed awareness courses rather than accept fines and points on their license. Of the total number, nearly half of those picked the course route rather than paying a fine.
There are also regional differences around speeding fines with hotspots being highlighted around the UK. Research from UK Carline in January this year looked at speeding offences based on police force areas as well as top speeds that drivers were caught doing.
It found that West Yorkshire had the highest number of speeding tickets issued in 2017 at 142,000 followed by Surrey at 62,000 and West Mercia at a similar figure. The City of London constabulary distributes the lowest number of speeding tickets at just over 3,100, but this may be more due to the nature of the capital’s roads and traffic than anything else.
West Yorkshire also hold the record for the highest speed with a driver caught doing 160mph on the motorway – the driver was 90mph above the speed limit. Drivers were recorded at 150mph in Surrey and Kent as well as just below this in Lincolnshire and Dundee.
Perhaps even more frightening was some of the recorded speeds in 30mph zones. The highest was in Dundee at 106mph followed by West Yorkshire at 102mph and Dorset at 96mph. It shows that being in residential areas does seem to deter some drivers from exceeding the speed
Why we speed
The disregard for the rules around speeding is an interesting one. We all know that going too fast increases the chance of an accident and can lead to injury or even death. But other factors encourage us to put aside these concerns and press down on the accelerator.
Some of the reasons that people give for speeding shows the pressure of life sometimes gets the better of us. A survey by Aviva last year showed that everything from running late for work to being pressured by aggressive drivers behind us results in us speeding. Distractions such as music or children can also mean we don’t realise we are breaking the law.
Another strong reason for speeding is that we believe we are safe, competent drivers. A Safe Driving Survey from 2016 found that 8 out of 10 motorists thought they were safe drivers. The Thames Valley Police said that 95% of all road crashes are due to human error. So, do we believe we are safer on the road and better drivers than we are?
Other reasons for speeding
As cars become more and more technology orientated and more is done for us without thinking about it, there is a danger that we naturally become too dependent on tech. It can result in being reliant on safety features, warning lights and little beeps to tell us when something is wrong. It is referred to as behavioural adaptation. It means we are adapting to letting the car do more thinking for us and failing to monitor ourselves as much – hence speeding without realising.
The final point from the psychology side is known as the Ripple Effect. You are at a traffic light, and just before it turns green, someone behind hits the horn. You feel cross and pull away at high speed to get away from them. Their behaviour has had a ripple effect on your own and caused you to speed.
Speed limits for a reason
We all know that speed limits can be frustrating and speed cameras a menace. But it is easy to forget that they are often there to protect us and others around us. For example, 20-30mph limits are usually in residential areas, around schools and hospitals where a slower speed could result in saving someone’s life if there is an accident.
Motorways may seem to be a ‘safer’ place to speed because there are fewer fatalities and accidents than normal roads, but this relies on our skill as drivers which may not be as universal as we believe. And the higher the speed, the higher the risk of severe injury or death if there is an incident. In 2016, there were 229 deaths on the roads involving a speeding vehicle and another 1,549 people seriously injured, motorway accidents formed less than 20% of that figure, but had a much higher fatality rate compared to normal road accidents.
Smart motorways are the latest weapon aimed at catching out drivers who speed, what many drivers don’t realise is that smart motorway cameras are on all the time and not just during times when there are speed limits on the boards above lanes. While it may seem like they have been created to catch drivers out who speed, its actually to prevent accidents from happening by actively encouraging drivers to lower average speed and managing congestion more effectively during busy times.
Do you agree that we have a problem with speeding in the UK or are the speed limits too slow? Do you think further measures such as smart motorways are the right way to go or is average speed cameras a better approach? Let us know in the comments below.