For North Yorkshire Police’s traffic officers, lockdown has presented unprecedented challenges of law enforcement.

Saturday, 30th May 2020, 11:02 am

Updated Saturday, 30th May 2020, 11:04 am
Roads in the Yorkshire Dales have been speeding black spots Copyright: jpimedia

The force has now shared statistics and first-hand observations about how road usage has changed since late March.

While cycling has drastically increased, so has speeding and the fatality rate has risen, despite the number of collisions actually decreasing.

Inspector Jeremy Bartley of North Yorkshire Police’s Major Collision Investigation Team, said: “Coronavirus restrictions have undoubtedly brought significant changes to the way our roads are used.

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“Some of the changes are positive, such as more families taking up cycling and more people walking. But we’ve also seen negative changes too, including speeds of more than 130mph.

“By sharing these changes with motorists, we hope they’ll adapt their driving as routes get busier again.”

Seventy per cent more cyclists are using the roads

The number of cyclists has risen by 70 per cent during lockdown. Police officers have seen large numbers of novice cyclists and parents with young children enjoying the roads for the first time in the absence of traffic.

Yet the proportion of accidents involving cyclists rose from 20 per cent to 27 per cent compared to the same period on 2019. There have been at least two recorded fatalities involving cyclists – 36-year-old father Andrew Jackson, from Wetherby, was killed in early May when he was struck by a Porsche while riding between Allerton and Boroughbridge, and an unnamed man in his 60s died after striking a parapet at Dibbles Bridge in the Dales in a collision that did not involve vehicles.

Two more have been seriously injured – 48-year-old John Bennett, from Rotherham, faces three months in a spinal base after being struck in a hit-and-run collision near Naburn in York, and an unidentified woman was hurt after being swiped by a cattle trailer being towed by a 4×4 on a road between Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Settle in the Dales.

The force has been promoting an education campaign to inform drivers about the importance of leaving a gap of at least 1.5 metres when passing a cyclist.

Officers are also reminding drivers that new cyclists may lack experience in using roads. Novices are recommended to take an adult cycle training course, which many local councils provide.

Deserted roads have provided an opportunity for reckless drivers to reach high speeds.

Officers have regularly seen their speed guns clock 130mph and 120mph during checks, and in 30mph zones drivers have been caught doing twice the limit.

Rural locations have been particular black spots for these types of offences.

The force has deployed more high-visibility officers in these areas and has reminded drivers that such behaviour could result in accidents that tie up NHS resources unnecessarily and result in hospital admissions that could leave victims at risk of infection.

If you haven’t driven for weeks or even months, your basic skills may be a little rusty,

Police have spotted a deterioration in awareness of signalling and road position among many drivers.

Fewer accidents, but more deaths

The number of reported collisions has dropped by 40 per cent during lockdown. However, the number of fatalities from a smaller number of crashes has risen by 30 per cent.

There have been 18 road deaths in 2020.

The contributing factors of these fatal collisions are still being investigated, and serious collision investigations can take months to complete.

Roads as quiet as in the 1950s

At one point, traffic levels were the lowest they have been since 1955, when car ownership was far lower than it is today.

Over the last fortnight, journeys have begun to rise as lockdown restrictions have eased.