Car journeys across the UK have fallen by between 60 and 80 percent as people stay at home during the coronavirus lockdown, according to new data. The figures from the AA show a 60-percent cut in passenger car traffic on weekdays, rising to 70 percent on Saturdays and 80 percent on Sundays.
The government enforced a lockdown in the UK on March 23, advising citizens to stay at home as much as possible to slow the spread of the virus. Under the guidance published by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, people should only leave their homes for food shopping, exercise or to go to work in essential jobs where homeworking is not possible. People can, however, leave home when there is a “medical need”, such as a hospital appointment.
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As of 09:00 on April 15, the government’s figures showed just under 100,000 people had tested positive for the virus, with the death toll of more than 12,800.
According to the AA’s review of more than 15,000 daily car journeys, Brits seem to be taking the government advice on board. The motoring organisation has seen a “pattern” of travel, with car journeys down 60 percent from Monday to Friday. On Saturday, the volume of passenger car traffic sinks even more dramatically, down 70 percent on normal levels. The number of cars on the roads drops even more dramatically on Sundays, falling by 80 percent.
Recently, the organisation did see a small spike in traffic on Thursday, April 9, when passenger car traffic was up to half its normal level. The AA says journeys then settled at “around two-fifths” of the pre-lockdown numbers, before falling away to their lowest level yet on Easter Sunday.
Although the organisation says the bright weather over the Easter period will have tempted some drivers out into their cars, it claims the lockdown has generally been respected. The AA attributes the spike in traffic to pre-Easter food shopping.
“For the most part, families and car drivers respected the lockdown and didn’t revert to the usual Easter exodus, travelling to see friends or out into the country for exercise,” said Edmund King, the AA’s president. “Empty motorways were testament to car owners heeding government advice and not taking a holiday from the lockdown.
“Overall, we expected some increase in car journeys after the initial collapse as essential workers and volunteers took to the road again. However, the AA thinks that measures, such as police clamping down on cars parked at beauty spots away from where people live, may keep car journeys at their current low level for a while yet.
“Police have also said that although the roads are quieter, they have seen some excessive speeding. There is no excuse for speeding even if the roads and motorways are almost empty. Speeding has led to several crashes over the last few days which ties up the resources of the emergency services, the NHS and potentially takes up precious hospital beds.”