Despite reports of an increased number of vehicles on the road at the beginning of the sixth week of lockdown, a fifth of motorists said they’ll be using their cars less once the coronavirus pandemic eases.
Some 22 per cent of drivers said they will spend less their in their motors when the lockdown is lifted in a poll of almost 20,000 licence holders by the AA.
When the panel was asked what their first outing in their cars will be once restrictions are scaled back, seeing family members unsurprisingly topped the list – though the second priority was to travel to a hairdressers or barber to get a much-needed trim.
Life on the roads after lockdown: Some 22% of drivers polled said they will drive LESS when the coronavirus restrictions are eased by the Government
With Britain now in day 35 of the lockdown, some 19,732 people have had time to answer the AA’s survey about driving when we’re granted access to roads as normal.
While more than a fifth of all respondents said they will be driving less, the likelihood of spending fewer hours in a car increased for the older generation, with a quarter of over 65s saying they won’t be hitting the road s as much as they used to.
Half of all licence holders said they will drive as they did before and just one per cent said they will drive more than they did before the lockdown was put in place at the end of last month.
When asked if they would increase their exercise once rules about going out and social distancing were eased, over a third said they plan to do more walking, cycling and running than they had prior to the pandemic.
Mobility tracking by Apple based on requests for directions via its apps showed levels of people driving (in red) or walking (in orange) are both gradually risen in recent weeks
This TomTom graph shows congestion in London at 8am today was at 14 per cent. This is down 49 percentage points on the normal level. That is an increase on morning rush hour last week. At 8am on Tuesday to Thursday last week, the congestion levels were down between 51 and 53 percentage points on normal levels
What will be the affect on traffic levels?
Road traffic levels are currently around 60 per cent lower than they were before the restrictions were put in place by the Government to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
While there has been a rise in the number of people using vehicles at the start of week six of lockdown, it is far from the congestion levels seen before the pandemic.
In fact, analysis of Google Maps by leasing firm LeasingOptions has shown the significant difference in traffic jams during the morning commute in major cities.
The analysis of traffic days shows the difference in congestion at 8.30am on a weekday in April compared to Google’s historical traffic data from before the lockdown.
This Google Maps diagram shows the impact on major routes in the capital since the lockdown was announced on 23 March
LeasingOptions also compared the impact of the lockdown on congestion levels in other major cities, including Birmingham (left) and Manchester (right)
While half said they will go back to their normal driving ways when the restrictions end, the AA said the impact of a reduction in car journeys signified by the survey findings could still be significant in terms of cutting congestion and lowering vehicle emissions.
The motoring group believes there will be far more people will opt to work from home more often than they did before the lockdown, which will also also have an impact on traffic levels.
Two thirds of the drivers polled said they are working from home.
Overall, 11 per cent of all respondents (including those who are not currently working or have been furloughed) said they would work from home more often once the lockdown is lifted, with this increasing to 23 per cent amongst those aged 35 to 44.
Such changes in working patterns could again lead to a reduction in traffic from both public transport and private vehicles.
However, there is an argument for an increased use of private vehicles once people begin to return to normal life, as fewer are expected to want to use public transport – mainly buses and the London underground – due to being in close proximity to others.
The AA said there was big drop in public transport use in in 2005 after the July terror bombings in London.
But it says parking restrictions in major cities and the London congestion charges will still prevent people from using their cars to commute, meaning more reliance on taxis and an increase in the number of individuals cycling,
Just 1% of the near-20,000 panel of motorists said they planned to drive their cars more after the lockdown is lifted
Commuters are expected to want to avoid public transport when social distancing rules are eased, but will look to cycle more instead of using their private cars, says the AA
‘Other cities with fewer restrictions may see an increase in car use if people shun public transport,’ it said.
AA president Edmund King added: ‘Life after lockdown will be different. Some will shun public transport, others will drive less, more will cycle and walk, working from home will continue for many.
‘Some drivers who have appreciated lower traffic noise, fewer and shorter journeys, may be prompted finally to buy an electric vehicle.
‘All in all, life will return and the increase in car use in some areas instead of public transport will be countered by others realising that they can use their cars less by working from home or even walking and cycling more.’
Getting a much-needed haircut after weeks in lockdown is among the top priorities for first car journeys, says the panel surveyed by the AA
First car journey post-lockdown
1. Visit family – 38%
2. Get a haircut – 12%
3. Trip to the countryside – 10%
4. Go to the pub – 8%
5. Trip to the beach – 5%
=6. Visit a shopping centre – 4%
=6. Go to the gym or travel to do some form of fitness/leisure – 4%
8. Go to the cinema – 1%
9. Don’t know – 10%
10. Other – 8%
Source: AA poll of 19,732 motorists
First drive after lockdown
When asked what their first trip will be once restrictions on movement have been lifted, visits to friends and family topped the list, as expected.
Almost two in five (38 per cent) said their first drive will be to visit loved ones they’ve been separated from.
The next most common first trip was more surprising, with a high number of people admitting they were desperate for a hair cut.
Some 12 per cent said they will first use their car to travel to a hairdresser or barber.
One in ten said they will first take a drive to the countryside while 8 per cent said they will use their car to go to the pub – though hopefully have a designated driver.
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