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Lockdown car use falls but roads busier than March

cars on a road

Car use has fallen by more than a fifth in the UK during the latest lockdown – nowhere near the decline seen in March – new data from the RAC shows.

During the first week of the latest lockdown, data from RAC Black Box Insurance customers shows a 22% year-on-year reduction in car use, which puts traffic volumes are at a similar level to the middle of last May.

It was May when restrictions first started to be eased, with people encouraged to return to workplaces if they were unable to work from home.

The quietest week for traffic since the start of the coronavirus pandemic was the second week of the first coronavirus lockdown (w/c March 30), when RAC data showed a 41% reduction in car usage compared to normal.

This contrasts with the first full week of September (w/c September 7) 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.

Rod Dennis from the RAC said: “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.”

A further sign that vehicles are being used more during this latest lockdown is the extremely high number of breakdowns attended by RAC patrols so far this year.

Incredibly, the RAC had its busiest start to a New Year on record with 8% 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.

Dennis said: “It’s vital drivers think carefully before using their vehicles and ensure they’re only venturing out for essential trips as specified by government guidelines.

“Every unnecessary journey increases the chances of a breakdown, or worse a road traffic collision, and risks adding to the pressures being experienced by our emergency and healthcare workers.”

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