DRIVERS are being warned to slow down to protect increasing numbers of pedestrians using the roads to exercise as a result of the lockdown.

Research has shown more drivers are speeding since the start of the lockdown, as roads are becoming less busy.

But while there are fewer cars on roads, there are more people out walking.

Paul Watson, chairman of campaign group Road Safety GB North East (RSGB NE), said: "We have only been in lockdown just over a week, but already we have seen a marked shift in the way some drivers are using the roads. They need to slow down.

“As the lockdown has resulted in most people working from home and only going out once a day to exercise, there has been an increase in people walking, running and cycling around their local areas.

“In order to give other pedestrians a wide berth, many are walking on the roads, or crossing over frequently, in order to social distance and ensure they are at least two metres from anyone else.

“If vehicles are passing at speed, it makes for a dangerous combination. Unless people take care, it’s only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed.”

Research shows that since lockdown began on the evening of Monday, March 23, there is less than half the normal amount of traffic on weekdays, and only a third on weekends (down 67per cent), with larger reductions on local roads.

However, traffic speeds have increased on most roads, with many seeing average speeds around 5mph higher than normal.

The data shows that some people are sticking to the speed limit, but there are more extreme speeds being recorded, which is pulling the average up.

Police are warning motorists that if a vehicle hits a pedestrian at 40mph, there is a 90 per cent chance they will be killed.

This reduces to 50 per cent for vehicles travelling at 35mph, 20 per cent for vehicles moving at 30mph and 2.5per cent for those at 20mph.

Police Inspector Steve Clyburn, from the Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit, said: “During lockdown, whilst only essential journeys must be taken, we would like to remind drivers that officers are still out there enforcing the law and trying to keep our roads as safe as possible.

"Whilst the roads may be quieter because many people are staying at home, this does not give motorists the go ahead to drive above the legal speed limits, and we have seen examples of this over the last week or so.

“There are still other vehicles on the road and pedestrians and passengers to consider as well as yourselves.

"Collisions could put additional strain onto the NHS and emergency services at an already demanding time, and so we’re asking people to take care on the roads and please stick to the speed limits.”