But one in 10 drivers has stopped driving completely.

A third of UK drivers think having access to a car has become more important as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, according to the RAC. However, the motoring organisation’s research shows one in 10 drivers has stopped driving completely as the country has ground to a halt.

In its study of more than 1,500 motorists, the RAC found drivers are depending on their wheels to help them through day-to-day life under lockdown, with 75 percent of respondents saying they use the car for permitted food shopping. Similarly, 28 percent said they use the car to get to pharmacies, while a fifth (18 percent) claimed they need their car to provide care or help to a vulnerable person.

Despite this, the majority (60 percent) of respondents said they were now using their cars once a week or less, suggesting drivers are following the lockdown guidance and limiting trips out. But while the research shows 10 percent of the population has stopped driving altogether, almost as many (nine percent) are still using their car most days.

Quiet residential side street in London

The RAC’s study also showed the public followed the guidance over the warm Easter weekend, with 97 percent of respondents staying at home over the break. As a result, the organisation has seen a dip in the number of breakdown callouts it receives, although it confesses that there was “an unexpected spike in breakdowns” on Tuesday, April 14.

The news comes as the UK endures a fourth week of lockdown, with the public urged to stay at home to slow the spread of coronavirus. Citizens are allowed to leave home for exercise once a day, or to go shopping for food. They can also leave for medical reasons, or to do work that cannot be done from home.

Morrisons car park in Preston Lancashire UK

“These figures highlight the important role the private car still plays in enabling people to complete their essential journeys during lockdown,” said RAC breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis. “The reality for many people is that they still rely on the car for certain trips – be it for weekly food shopping, to get to and from work or when looking after a vulnerable person.

“The government has indicated that food shopping should be done as infrequently as possible, and consequently many people are using their cars to carry heavy bags of groceries. But only using cars infrequently can lead to problems, particularly with batteries. Fortunately, the RAC is still on hand to sort out these issues enabling drivers to keep using their cars when they need to, alongside providing assistance to hundreds of emergency service vehicles and thousands of key workers who are RAC members.

Rows of houses in Hanover estate in Brighton UK

“What is vital however, is that drivers heed the government advice and strictly use their cars for essential trips only. It’s encouraging to see just how many drivers reported they stayed at home over Easter, but there appears to be a small proportion who continue to get in the car either to drive somewhere for exercise, or to keep their vehicle’s battery healthy. While the temptation might be there with the car sitting outside and largely unused, we really do urge people to think twice before they get behind the wheel. Every unnecessary journey potentially adds to the burden on our emergency services.”