Lockdown traffic creeps up as drivers head out for booze and DIY supplies

Friday, 8th May 2020, 12:01 am
Updated Friday, 8th May 2020, 12:01 am

The number of cars on the road and the distances being travelled have both risen in the last week, despite lockdown restrictions still being in place.

The RAC has reported an 11 per cent increase in the number of cars on the road between the second week of lockdown and last week (the week commencing April 27). It also found that more than a third of drivers admit to using their cars more now than at the start of lockdown, suggesting more and more people are stretching the rules.

Ahead of this weekend’s government announcement on how some lockdown restrictions might be eased, the motoring organisation analysed black box, breakdown and route planning data to track driver behaviour.

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Comparing the week starting March 30 with the week starting April 27, it found 11 per cent more cars on the road and a 23 per cent increase in daily miles being driven. It also saw an 18 per cent increase in breakdown call-outs.

Lockdown fatigue

In a poll of drivers, the RAC found that 41 per cent of drivers said they were now using their cars more. Most said they were still only venturing out for essentials such as groceries (23 per cent) or medicines (nine per cent), but five per cent said they were making trips exclusively to buy alcohol or visit DIY stores.

A slightly smaller proportion (four per cent said they were using their car more to drive somewhere to do exercise, and the same percentage said they were using their vehicle more for work purposes.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “There is now mounting evidence that people are venturing back out in their vehicles for more essential, as well as arguably non-essential journeys.

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“This perhaps is being driven by lockdown fatigue and boredom while the sunny spring weather might also be enticing drivers back into their vehicles. Additionally, some who are indoors might have chosen to carry out home maintenance and DIY, so have taken an opportunity to visit DIY stores that are now open.

“Our own data clearly shows a slight, but nonetheless steady, rise in the number of drivers using their vehicles, and the distances they are travelling in them on a daily basis, compared with earlier in the lockdown. As we near the end of the seventh week of the lockdown, all eyes are on what the Government announces this weekend in terms of how and when movement restrictions might be lifted.

“Until anything concrete is confirmed, the current advice remains to only go out when necessary for essential purposes, or where you cannot work from home. Even where drivers need to head out to pick up food shopping, this should be done as infrequently as possible to help stop the spread of the virus. The question drivers should ask themselves before venturing out is ‘do I really need to?’

“By only using the car for essential journeys at this time, we’re not only helping prevent the virus spreading, but are also reducing the risk of being involved in a road collision and avoiding putting any further pressure on the NHS.”