AA predicts sharp decline in driving after lockdown

The AA has predicted that a fifth of motorists will use the car less in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.

With a similar proportion of people expected to use public transport less once life returns to normal, the motoring organisation says the travel restrictions could have long-term effects on British transport long after they are lifted.

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Current government data suggests that traffic volumes have fallen by between 60 and 80 per cent since lockdown began and traffic mapping has shown dramatic changes in congestion in the UK's major cities.

The AA polled more than 20,000 people about how much they expect to travel after lockdown restrictions are lifted, as well as how they plan to get around, revealing potentially major changes to the way Britons travel.

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Just over a fifth (22 per cent) of motorists said they expected to drive less, while half (51 per cent) said they would drive as before. Just one per cent of drivers said they would drive more but the AA has predicted that some cities could see an increase in traffic as some people use public transport less.

A recent survey by transport analysts Systra found around 20 per cent of people planned to use public transport less, possibly due to concerns around social distancing. The AA said that in cities without stringent congestion and parking restrictions this could lead to an increase in car use in city centres.

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However, it also pointed to many people’s intention to work from home as well as those who said they would walk or cycle more, which could both lead to a reduction in traffic. According to its poll, one in 10 drivers plans to work from home more, increasing to almost a quarter among 35-44-year-olds. More than a third also said they would walk, cycle or run more once restrictions are lifted.

Commenting, Edmund King OBE, AA president, said: "Potentially there could be major changes to the way we travel post-lockdown. Analysis suggests that one fifth might use public transport less in cities post-lockdown. Outside of London which has parking and congestion charging restrictions, we could see an increase in car use in other cities where people shun public transport for fear of the virus.

More than 1 in 5 divers says they will use their car less after lockdown restrictions are lifted (Photo: Shutterstock)More than 1 in 5 divers says they will use their car less after lockdown restrictions are lifted (Photo: Shutterstock)
More than 1 in 5 divers says they will use their car less after lockdown restrictions are lifted (Photo: Shutterstock)

"However, this trend may be countered with a change in driving patterns by those who normally drive but have got used to leaving the car at home during lockdown. More than one in five say they will drive less after restrictions are lifted. It is also likely that at least one in ten will work from home more often.

“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.”

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Mr King also predicted that the significant drop in traffic and related pollution could alter drivers’ attitudes towards car buying.

He said: "There will still be a demand for new and used cars but people may just use them slightly less which will reduce congestion and bring environmental benefits.

"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."

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