Current lockdown car use at similar levels to May 2020

Car use by drivers in the UK has not fallen to the same extent as it did during the first coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, analysis of RAC data suggests.

RAC patrols had their busiest start to a New Year on record with eight more breakdowns handled over the first four days of January compared to the same period in previous years.

While the cold weather and the fact cars were used even less than normal over Christmas as a result of the coronavirus will both have been major factors, the data confirms that drivers are still deeming it necessary to use their vehicles for essential trips in 2021.

Related: Motorists told to keep on top of MOTs and servicing during current lockdown

During the first week of the latest lockdown, data from RAC Black Box Insurance customers shows there were on average ten per cent more cars in daily use than during the first week of March’s lockdown, leading to 31 per cent more daily miles driven.

This represents a 22 per cent reduction in car use compared to normal.

RAC data insight spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Despite the whole of the UK now under a further coronavirus lockdown, our data shows the number of cars in use has not dropped to the same extent it did the first time restrictions were brought in last March.

Related: Ban on tyres over 10 years old to affect MOT testing stations

“The feel of this latest nationwide lockdown is very different to that which was first imposed in 2020 with greater numbers of people working in ‘Covid-secure’ workplaces, more shops offering click-and-collect services, and more children of keyworkers attending schools.

“In addition, with so many avoiding public transport, there will inevitably be far more people opting for the safer environment of the car.

“Together, these differences help account for the busier roads.”

The RAC believes traffic volumes are now at a similar level to the middle of last May, which interestingly was the point restrictions first started to be eased, with people encouraged to return to workplaces if they were unable to work from home.

Related: Make sure your customers know there’s no MOT exemption this time, TechMan says

According to RAC data, the quietest week for traffic since the start of the pandemic was the second week of the first coronavirus lockdown, with a 41 per cent reduction in car usage compared to normal.

This contrasts with the first full week of September when the RAC recorded its highest levels of car use of the year as schools in England returned after the summer holidays, with traffic back to normal levels.

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