Make speeding as socially unacceptable as drink-driving, urges safety charity

Speeding should be made as socially unacceptable as drink- or drug-driving according to one of the country’s largest road safety charities.

IAM Roadsmart is calling for a push to change attitudes after research found nearly half of drivers think it is acceptable to speed on the motorway and more than a fifth are happy to speed in residential areas.

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The same study found that, despite 22 per cent of drivers being willing to speed in towns, 89 per cent thought speeding in residential areas was as much of a safety risk as driving under the influence of drink or drugs, or when distracted by a phone.

Neil Greig, the charity’s policy and research director, said the findings showed a “deeply concerning” attitude towards speeding which needed to be addressed.

Drink-driving rates have fallen sharply since the 1970s after a series of campaigns to make it socially unacceptable

The IAM study found that 46 per cent of drivers thought it was fine to drive at up to 10 miles an hour over the limit on a motorway, with a quarter happy to go even faster.

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More concerning, 22 per cent thought it was fine to drive at 35mph in a residential area and 10 per cent were happy to speed past a school.

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Drink-driving rates have fallen sharply since the end of the 1970s when a series of hard-hitting campaigns worked to convince drivers and the wider public that it wasn’t acceptable to drive whilst under the influence. Now, IAM Roadsmart wants speeding to be viewed in the same light.

Neil Greig commented: “The results of this survey are deeply concerning. Speeding consistently causes more than 4,400 casualties on UK roads each year. That’s an average of 12 people a day killed or injured in some form. We need a fundamental shift in attitudes towards speeding so that it becomes as socially unacceptable as drink and drug driving – where public opinion has changed over previous decades.

“There is a slight glimmer of hope as, overall, acceptability of driving 10 miles per hour over the speed limit on a motorway has dropped by around 10 per cent since 2016, but there is still a long, long way to go. Attitudes towards tackling urban speeding are much more positive and support for measures such as speed cameras around schools was very high at 82 per cent. Overall, however, opinions on 20mph as the new urban limit are still finely balanced with 53 per cent for and 47 per cent against, which shows much work is needed to change deeply entrenched behaviour.”

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The study found Londoners were the most likely to speed around schools, with 15 per cent saying it was acceptable, compared with a national average of 10 per cent. Drivers in the east of England were the most responsible motorists outside schools, with only five per cent rating it acceptable behaviour.

Motorists in the south-east of England were most likely (55 per cent) to find it acceptable to speed on the motorway by up to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, while there was less acceptability among the drivers of the West Midlands and Wales (at 43 per cent and 41 per cent respectively).

According to the latest Department for Transport data, exceeding the speed limit was reported as a factor in six per cent of all crashes in 2019, but these incidents involved 12 per cent of fatalities.