Coronavirus has seen more than half of UK motorists use their cars less than before the pandemic, according to new research. A study of 2,000 British drivers by car insurance company Direct Line found 55 percent are driving fewer miles than before the first lockdown was implemented in March.

Assuming Direct Line’s study surveyed an accurate cross-section of the public as a whole, the company estimates 21.5 million people are driving less than before lockdown. And 34 percent – or a potential 13.2 million people – say they are now driving “significantly” fewer miles than they were before the pandemic hit.

Of those who said their driving habits have changed, 40 percent said that was down to the impact of social distancing measures on their ability to visit family, while 30 percent simply said they “don’t like” going out as much. Roughly a fifth of respondents (22 percent) said they drive less because they don’t have to go into work now.

In October, Direct Line says UK motorists travelled an average of 198 miles. However, the average estimated mileage listed on an insurance policy is 8,000 miles a year – the equivalent of 667 miles a month. That means the average driver is travelling 70 percent less than originally estimated.

Direct Line also looked into how easy drivers find judging mileage, quizzing motorists to see whether they could accurately judge the distance between their nearest city and other major UK cities. Drivers in Leeds, Liverpool and Nottingham were the most accurate, with Leeds underestimating distances by just 0.1 percent. Drivers in Liverpool underestimated by an average of two percent, and those in Nottingham underestimated by three percent.

Night traffic in London

However, at the opposite end of the scale, drivers in Norwich were an average of 27 percent out when judging distances. Drivers in London and Manchester were also both a long way out, underestimating by an average of 14 percent.

With that in mind, Direct Line has urged drivers to reconsider the mileage they submit to their insurance company when renewing after lockdown. Lower mileages can result in lower premiums as the risk level changes. Direct Line, for example, is currently offering new or existing customers a refund on miles they don’t drive.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV in the UK

As part of the scheme, the company considers the estimated mileage and actual mileage, then refunds customers two percent of their premium for every 1,000 miles they have estimated but not covered. For example, a driver who submitted an estimated mileage of 10,000 miles but only covered 8,000 would receive a four-percent refund. The company will refund up to 20 percent of the premium, or 10,000 unused miles.

traffic on the M4 motorway near Cardiff

“It’s clear to see that people find it incredibly hard to judge distance, and therefore mileage, without the help of technology,” said Lorraine Price, head of motor insurance at Direct Line. “With the impact of the coronavirus, across the UK, people will obviously be driving much less than originally anticipated when they renewed their insurance. It is therefore important that drivers take this time to gauge their mileage as accurately as possible.

“At Direct Line, customers who opt-in, can claim a refund on the miles that they don’t drive as part of our Mileage MoneyBack initiative. We recognise that estimating yearly mileage can be difficult for customers and that it may be more difficult to understand how much you will drive in the future especially given the current crisis. That’s why we want to make sure that if customers drive less, they also pay a little less.”