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As figures reveal the extent of speeding on Britain's roads what can be done to improve road safety and reduce casualties?

The Department for Transport has published its 2022 data on the extent to which drivers on Britain’s roads comply with the speed limits. 

Having collected the data from automatic traffic counters, in locations free from junctions, hills, sharp bends and speed cameras, these estimates provide striking insights into how quickly some drivers will travel “when free to do so”.

In representing many individuals who have suffered life-changing injuries through collisions on our roads or supported loved ones in the aftermath of fatal collisions, I'm all too familiar with the devastating consequences of road traffic collisions and the dangers posed by driving too quickly.

In 2020, for example, exceeding the speed limit and traveling too quickly for the conditions were considered by the police to be contributory to 27% of fatal collisions.

What the DfT's figures show

Whilst there is a wealth of data to be digested from this latest report, certain aspects stand out and highlight how much more work is required to reduce the number of casualties on our roads, especially in urban areas where pedestrians, cyclists and children are more likely to be present.

For instance, despite the fact that 30mph limits often apply to urban and residential areas - roads where kids, pedestrians and cyclists are most likely to be present - 50% of drivers exceeded the speed. Yet when on national speed limit single carriageway roads, where vulnerable road users are less common, just 11% of drivers exceeded the limit. 

More than 80% of driver break 20mph limits

Twenty mile per hour limits continue to attract attention in the media. The latest data indicates that on such roads, “84% of cars exceeded the speed limit during weekdays, and 86% during the weekend”. The Department for Transport highlights the need for caution in respect of its data, which isn't representative of 20mph locations in general. Nevertheless, prior research highlights the challenges to ensure compliance with 20mph limits - “…the introduction of signage only is unlikely to lead to 20mph compliance.”

What can be done to improve road safety?

If people are to be encouraged to walk or cycle around their local communities, they must first feel safe to do so. If people continue to speed, however, they will not. This latest report highlights that when drivers feel “free to do so” drivers will continue to speed in our urban and residential areas. 

Engineered solutions, such as traffic calming measures and altering a road’s layout can help slow traffic. But also of importance is a cultural shift, “changing how drivers think about driving in residential areas and locations with significant pedestrian and cycle activity.”

This therefore requires consistent messaging, reinforcing this – a 20mph speed limit sign will not be sufficient. As concluded in the “20mph Research Study” report, successfully reducing vehicle speeds on our urban and residential roads requires a “broad integrated policy agenda involving health, environment, urban planning, emergency services, education and community representatives", supported in the longer term by “complementary transport, health, environment and community policy and interventions”.

Can technology play a role?

We have seen long-term integrated strategies successfully ensure behavioural change - wearing seatbelts, for example - but can modern technology not assist us in immediately mandating compliance? E-scooters can have automatic speed limiters, controlling speed based on GPS location. Why can’t such technology apply to all vehicles?


In my work, I often represent cyclists, bikers and pedestrians or their families after injuries or deaths caused by avoidable incidents on our roads – excess speed is often a factor here. Where collisions have occurred, people require specialist legal advice to help overcome what has happened. This can ensure access to rehabilitation and specialist support to help overcome injuries. Legal support can also be important in assisting people in coming to terms with a death and compensating them accordingly. 

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in helping people and families following road accidents at our road traffic accident claims section.