Speeding is as bad as carrying a knife, says top cop

Senior police officer says drivers who break the speed limit are “weaponising” their cars

Vehicle speeding into bend

A senior police officer has drawn parallels between drivers who break speed limits and people who carry knives. 

Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Cox, chair of the police strategic board for serious collision investigation, said: “Sometimes the person going before the magistrate or the judge might be a young black man who’s carried a knife, and the person who has driven at extreme speed could be a professional, middle-aged white male”, the Sunday Times reports.

Cox went on to: “Sentencing can’t be based on perception. It needs to be based on risk and likely harm, because that middle-aged professional white man is posing harm to everybody else.”  Men are roughly twice as likely to have penalty points from speeding offences on their driving licence compared to women.

The number of road fatalities fell steadily between 2005, when 3,160 people were killed on roads in Great Britain, and 2013, when 1,713 people lost their lives. The last eight years has seen a plateauing of those figures, however, which have actually risen since their low point eight years ago, with 1,827 people losing their lives in 2019. 

Reasons for changing fatality rates are multi-faceted, but trends such as improving vehicle safety, the widespread unacceptability of drink driving, and tougher penalties for using a mobile phone behind the wheel play their part. The long-term reduction in road deaths over the last 30 years (6,570 people died on our roads in 1976) has occurred despite the UK’s population growing by 8.1 million. 

Ascribing excessive speed as the cause of accidents is no simple matter, but a Government select committee previously heard evidence from police that 14 per cent of collisions are caused by excess speed (IE breaking the speed limit), while inappropriate speed (IE driving too fast for prevailing conditions) was behind a further 32 per cent of crashes.

Lockdown saw an overall decrease in traffic volumes, and road fatalities fell with them. Yet clearer roads saw 70 per cent of drivers break 30mph limits at some points during April 2020, compared with an average of 53 per cent in 2019. 

Research from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents holds that 90 per cent of pedestrians die when hit at 40mph, while 50 per cent survive if hit at 30mph, and 90 per cent survive if struck at 20mph. 

The Sunday Times reports DCS Cox said drivers who speed are “weaponising” their vehicles, adding: “How is that different from the use of violence in a fight?” He added that people should “challenge” friends and family members who speed, even though doing so might be “socially awkward”.

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