Weekend traffic overtook its pre-pandemic levels in June as motorists swap big foreign holidays for days out and UK vacations. Analysis of government figures by garage chain Kwik Fit found traffic levels on Saturdays and Sundays in June were up five percent compared with figures seen before the pandemic.

That came despite the company’s own research suggesting an estimated 7.4 million motorists are driving less at the weekend. However, it seems people driving for leisure reasons – holidaymakers and day-trippers – are more than making up the numbers.

Kwik Fit surveyed more than 2,000 UK adults, and assuming that sample was representative of the population as a whole, the company estimates 5.1 million drivers are spending more on weekend trips because they won’t have a big summer holiday this year. And the firm reckons roughly the same number say they are travelling to see friends and family from whom they have been separated for so long.

Teenagers in car on road trip

The research also found an estimated four million people are driving further from home for weekend leisure trips to “make the most of their free time”. And an estimated 3.8 million want to make the most of relaxed coronavirus measures now in case restrictions are tightened once again.

Other reasons given for driving more frequently at weekends included the enjoyment of driving, a motivator for an estimated 3.4 million. Kwik Fit suggests around 2.8 million, meanwhile, are hitting the roads to shop at the weekend.

Dual carriageway traffic in Bristol UK

But although driving is becoming more popular at the weekend, the government’s own data reveals weekday traffic has not quite returned to the levels seen before the pandemic hit. With an increase in the number of people working from home and social distancing restrictions still in place (for now), weekday traffic was down six percent on pre-pandemic levels in June.

Roger Griggs, the communications director at Kwik Fit, said it was important that drivers choosing to head out on leisure journeys ensure their cars are in a fit state. He also urged motorists to make sure they were ready to return to the roads after lockdown.

traffic on the M4 motorway near Cardiff

“When we are not using our cars every day, it’s easy to get out of the habit of regular checks and maintenance,” he said. “Especially during the pandemic when people’s normal routines have been turned upside down. Drivers may also become slightly complacent if they are not relying on their cars to get to work each day.

“We encourage motorists to get back into the habit of checking their car over, keeping a particular eye on tyre pressures and tread. Drivers should check the levels of fluids such as oil coolant and screenwash, and also be aware that brakes may seize if a car hasn’t been used for some time.”