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Written on 22nd November 2023 by Kim Milan

This Road Safety Week we are supporting road safety charity, Brake’s ‘Let talk about speed’ campaign to encourage drivers to help prevent road casualties by reducing their driving speed.

According to the Department for Transport’s (DfT) road casualty statistics, a total of 1,766 people died in accidents on UK roads in 2022, up by 10% from the previous year. Amongst these fatalities, the number of people who died on the roads as a result of drivers exceeding the speed limit rose by 20% in 2022 when compared with the previous year.

In September 2023, a survey by Brake asked more than 2,000 drivers about their driving habits and their attitudes towards speed and speed limits. Their survey responses showed that:

  • 92% of drivers agreed that speed limits are essential for safe roads;
  • 39% of drivers agreed that the default speed limit on roads in built-up areas should be lowered from 30mph to 20mph;
  • 74% (nearly three quarters) of drivers said that as a passenger they would ask their speeding driver to slow down; 
  • 41% of drivers believe that traffic moves too fast, even in 20mph speed limit areas.

When asked about their own driving, however:

  • 45% said that they had been caught speeding;
  • 34% (just over a third) said that they sometimes or often break the speed limit;
  • 40% said that they speed if they think they won’t get caught;
  • 23% (nearly a quarter) thought it is acceptable to speed in an emergency;
  • 17% thought it acceptable to speed on an open road with little traffic;
  • 40% said that driving just a little bit over the speed limit doesn’t matter;
  • and 22% (more than a fifth) thought that it was not a crime to break the speed limit.

Writing for Brake, Chief Constable Jo Shiner noted that in 2021/22, UK police forces issued more than 2.3 million fixed penalty notices for illegal speeding offences. These figures are the highest number of fixed penalty notices for illegal speed offences on record, and the numbers have been increasing year-on-year for more than a decade.

Speed limits and their enforcement under criminal law serve a valuable purpose in reminding drivers that driving a car or other vehicle at unsafe speeds risks the lives of not only other road users, but also the speeding driver and their passengers, including their children, family and friends. In addition to the fatalities which hit the headlines and are highlighted by the statistics, many more survivors of speed-related road traffic collisions are left with devastating, life-changing injury. However, the civil law, which enables us to claim compensation for injured victims of road traffic accidents, reminds us that the speed limit is an upper limit, maximum speed, at which it may sometimes be safe to drive, but as the recent judgment in our client’s case of FLR v Chandran reiterated, the Highway Code requires drivers to reduce their speed further to take into account other safety risks, such as the presence of children at bus stops or near pedestrian crossings, or adverse road conditions. 

As Brake’s survey demonstrates, speeding is often habitual. Reducing driving speed begins with increased awareness of the risks and heavy personal cost of harm, and an attitude of responsibility for the safe use of the driver’s vehicle. For habitually fast drivers, it may seem that driving more slowly is frustrating as it slows them down, takes longer, or is blamed for making them late, but these ‘inconveniences’ can easily be avoided by better planning for their journey. In talking about speed, we must remind ourselves that nothing can justify or undo the devastating harm from life-changing disability or loss of life that is caused by speeding, aside from any criminal penalties that the driver may incur, alongside their own or their loved ones’ injuries, and lifelong feelings of regret and shame.

What help is available for injured victims of speeding drivers?

In most cases, a driver who is injured in an accident caused by their own speeding will not recover compensation for their own injuries. If their speeding contributed to an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, such as the negligence of another driver or an unsafe road surface, they may be entitled to compensation, which may be reduced to take into account their own contributory negligence. Help will often be available for their injured passengers, or pedestrians and other road users who were injured as a result of their negligence, through a road traffic accident (RTA) compensation claim. 

In cases involving severe physical and psychological injury (PTSD) or major trauma, such as brain injury, spinal cord injury (SCI), amputation, or multiple injuries, our specialist personal injury solicitors can help secure urgent access to personalised rehabilitation and early financial help through Rehabilitation Code funding from the defendant driver’s insurers and interim payments. Our early involvement ensures a seamless transition from acute (emergency) hospital treatment following the accident to coordinated specialist ongoing treatment and rehabilitation to optimise our client’s recovery whilst we work towards a compensation settlement which fully meets their lifelong needs arising from the injury.

Where the accident was a hit and run, or the speeding driver was driving without insurance, we work closely with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) to secure rehabilitation and compensation. 

Our compassionate solicitors are known for our experience and supportive approach to sensitive cases, such as claims for passenger children, family or friends arising from their own parent or friend’s speeding or negligent driving, or in cases involving fatal or severe psychological injury.

If you have been seriously injured in an accident that was someone else’s fault and you would like to find out more about funded rehabilitation or making a claim, you can talk to one of our experienced solicitors, free and confidentially, by contacting us here.