More than 72,000 speeding offences in Bedfordshire last year

The number of people caught breaking the speed limit across England and Wales hit 2.6 million in 2019-20

Drivers were caught speeding on tens of thousands of occasions in Bedfordshire last year, analysis shows.

Bedfordshire Police recorded 72,784 offences in 2019-20, according to analysis of Home Office figures by the RAC Foundation.

But this was still 5% fewer than the 76,573 logged during the previous year, while across the 43 police forces in England and Wales the figure rose by 8%.

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The number of people caught breaking the speed limit across the two nations hit 2.6 million in 2019-20.

There was wide variation between areas – North Yorkshire saw the largest spike with the figure more than doubling, while Avon and Somerset Constabulary recorded a 32% drop.

The RAC Foundation said this could be down to a variety of factors, including differences in road networks, traffic volumes, policing priorities and resources, and the availability of detection technology.

The group's director Steve Gooding said: “Not for the first time there seems to be a patchwork approach to speed enforcement across England and Wales, with different constabularies dedicating varying levels of resource into catching those who break the limit."

Mr Gooding said it is unclear whether reduced traffic levels during lockdown will lead to fewer speeding offences being committed compared with previous years, or if open roads will tempt some drivers to go even faster.

Figures obtained earlier this year by the PA news agency showed Bedfordshire Police recorded a dramatic drop in the number of drivers caught speeding at the start of lockdown in April, compared to a year earlier.

In Bedfordshire, cameras caught all recorded speeding offences last year, which accounted for 94% of all motoring offences over the period – compared to 85% across England and Wales.

Speeding drivers in the area were sent on a speed awareness course on around 33,200 occasions, while around 17,700 offences resulted in a fine.

Offences were cancelled in around 15,000 cases, while 6,300 resulted in court action.

The RAC’s analysis shows the number of detected speeding offences across England and Wales has risen by 49% since 2011-12.

The figure increased more than five-fold in Bedfordshire, from 14,100 eight years ago.

Mr Gooding added: “As always we need to have regard to the bigger picture.

"All motoring laws are there to make our roads safer, hence tackling speeding is important, but it is only one aspect of driver behaviour that warrants attention if we are to break out of the plateauing of road fatalities in recent years.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “How the police deal with speeding offences is an operational matter and will be enforced at the discretion of the individual police force.

“How forces approach speed enforcement may be governed by their own assessment of local issues, which could include targeting dangerous roads to reduce harm or cracking down on high-risk offenders.”