Drivers support the use of average speed cameras on UK motorways, despite regularly breaking the 70 mph speed limit themselves. That’s the conclusion of a new study by the RAC, which surveyed more than 3,000 motorists to find out how many admit to speeding, and how drivers think the issue should be tackled.
In total, 56 percent of motorists admitted speeding “frequently or occasionally” on motorways and A-roads with a 70 mph speed limit in the past year. Although that 2020 figure was up slightly on the 55 percent who admitted the same offence last year, it’s well down on the 70 percent seen in 2015 and 2016.
Of those who admitted to speeding, more than a third (34 percent) admitted travelling at speeds of more than 80 mph. Three percent said the fastest they had driven on a motorway was over 100 mph, while four percent said they believed their top speed was between 91 and 100 mph. The vast majority (66 percent), however, drove between 71 and 80 mph.
When asked why they broke the speed limit, four in 10 drivers (39 percent) said they were “following the example set by other motorists”, while three in 10 (31 percent) said they felt it was safe. Other common reasons included quiet roads (28 percent), the speed limit being “inappropriate” (27 percent) and pressure from drivers behind (26 percent).
But despite these statistics, the majority of drivers said they thought average speed cameras were the best way of preventing speeding on motorways and fast A-roads. Almost six in 10 (58 percent) of the survey respondents said they thought this technology, which measures the time taken to travel between cameras and works out an average speed, would be the most effective option.
Although these cameras are often used on A-roads, they tend to be used sparingly on motorways. They are often found in areas where roadworks are in progress, and smart motorways use the technology to enforce temporary speed limits, but 54 percent of drivers said they would like to see the cameras used to enforce the general 70 mph limit. Only a quarter (26 percent) disagreed with this suggestion.
As well as looking at motorway speeds, the survey also canvassed drivers’ opinions on other roads. Encouragingly, the study found speeding was down on almost all types of roads in 2020, with 33 percent admitting to breaking 60 mph limits and 39 percent confessing to breaking 30 mph limits. Those figures were down from the year before, when a respective 38 percent and 44 percent of drivers admitted to exceeding those limits.
The RAC said it was “worrying” to see 11 percent of respondents admit to exceeding 40 mph in 30 mph zones, and to find 10 percent had driven at more than 30 mph in a 20 mph zone. In the latter case, 45 percent of those who speed “at least occasionally” said they did so because they thought the speed limit was “inappropriate” for that stretch of road.
“Despite more than half of drivers admitting to regularly exceeding the 70 mph speed limit, road safety statistics clearly show that motorways are our safest roads,” said RAC road safety spokesperson Rod Dennis.
“With so many motorists admitting to driving much faster than they should on the motorway, it was interesting to see such strong support for average speed cameras to be used more widely to enforce the 70 mph limit. We believe drivers see these cameras as being very effective at reducing speeds over longer distances and controlling traffic flow as well as being fairer than fixed position ones as they aren’t instantly punished for a momentary transgression.
“Our research shows speed limit compliance on all types of road has improved on previous years, but as our study was carried out during the pandemic we suspect this has partly been brought about by the reduction in the number of journeys carried out for the purposes of commuting – or for other business purposes – where drivers feel greater time pressure and may be more tempted to break the law by speeding.”