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Data also show that more than 80 per cent break 50mph dual carriageway limit… but hardly any speed on motorways

A staggering 83 per cent of lorries are driven at speeds in excess of the 50mph speed limit on dual carriageways in non-built up areas, and 69 per cent on similarly designated single carriageway roads, where a 40mph limit applies, according to new data from the Department for Transport (DfT). However, on motorways, few lorries were found to break the speed limit of 60mph applicable to them on those roads, attributed by the DfT to the fact they are fitted with speed limiters.

The figures, contained in the DfT’s Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2011, also showed that on single carriageway roads, some 18 per cent of lorries travelled at speeds of 10mph above the relevant speed limit.

The news comes at a time when the safety of cyclists sharing the road with lorries has come under the spotlight in London in particular following a string of fatalities in recent months; nine of the 16 cyclists killed in the capital this year died in collisions with lorries.

While road design at junctions rather than speeding is the focus of campaigners’ attention in London, national cyclists’ organisation CTC maintains that speeding lorries not only pose a danger to cyclists – it says that while they represent 5 per cent of traffic, they are responsible for 19 per cent of fatalities of bike riders – they are also hugely intimidating.

Last month, a jury at Swansea Crown Court acquitted a lorry driver from causing the death by careless driving of 20-year-old Olin Poulson from Carmartenshire. The court had heard that the lorry had been travelling at 55mph on a road that had a limit of 40mph, with the vehicle’s speed dropping slightly to 52mph at the time of impact.

According to the DfT, “Very few rigid and articulated HGVs exceeded their speed limit of 60 mph on motorways, as they are fitted with speed limiters” – which is another way of saying that taking away drivers’ ability to break the speed limit in the first place is arguably the easiest way of ensuring that they keep within it.

More news from Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2011 coming soon.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.