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Current lockdown car use at similar levels to May 2020, finds RAC

Suspicions that car use by drivers in the UK has not fallen to the same extent as it did during the first coronavirus lockdown have been borne out by new data from the RAC – which has also reported its busiest start to a new year on record.

During the first week of the latest lockdown, there were on average 10% more cars in daily use than during the first week of March’s lockdown

During the first week of the latest lockdown, there were on average 10% more cars in daily use than during the first week of March’s lockdown, leading to 31% more daily miles driven, according to the data from RAC Black Box Insurance customers.

It’s only 22% down compared to ‘normal’ conditions – using the first week of February 2020 as the basis – and the RAC believes traffic volumes are now at a similar level to the middle of last May; the point when restrictions first started to be eased.

In fact, the quietest time in the pandemic to date was the second week of the first lockdown (w/c 30 March), which saw a 41% reduction in car usage compared to normal.

And the busiest time was in the first full week of September (w/c 7 September) when schools in England returned after the summer holidays, with traffic back to normal levels.

The fact that the RAC had its busiest start to a New Year on record further supports views that vehicles are being used more during this latest lockdown.

In the first four days of January, RAC patrols handled 8% more breakdowns compared to the same period in previous years – although the cold weather and extended downtime over Christmas will have also been major factors.

RAC data insight spokesman Rod Dennis 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.”

He continued: “Nonetheless, 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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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.