Currently reading: UK road usage increasing despite lockdown still being in place
RAC survey finds more drivers are taking their cars out now than at the beginning of the lockdown

New data released by the RAC shows that car use across the UK is steadily increasing despite the lockdown still being in place. 

The breakdown provider’s findings are based on data taken from its insurance division’s black box monitors, breakdown recovery rates and click rates for its online journey planner platform. 

It says that last week (30 April to 7 May), compared with the second week of lockdown (27 March to 3 April), 11% more cars were on the road, covering 23% more miles daily. Its figures are backed up by an increase in breakdowns: RAC patrols responded to 18% more callouts last week. 

An increase in web traffic on the RAC Routeplanner website has also been observed, with the highest number of users since the lockdown came into effect recorded on 5 May. This marked a 16% increase on the previous Monday. 

A corresponding survey carried out by the RAC found that 41% of UK drivers are using their cars more frequently now than they were in the early days of the lockdown. Of the 1534 drivers asked, 23% said they were driving to buy food and groceries, while 9% said they were using a car for trips to pharmacies or to buy essential supplies. 

Some 5% admitted to taking their car out specifically to buy alcohol and another 5% said they were driving to DIY shops, which were included on the government’s list of ‘essential’ businesses that were allowed to remain open. 

Although all but essential travel is banned, 4% of drivers have been driving away from their homes to exercise, which matches the number of people using their cars for work purposes. An additional 1% are claimed to have just been “taking their car solely to give it a run”. 

The organisation’s head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said: “There is now mounting evidence that people are venturing back out in their vehicles for more essential, as well as arguably non-essential, journeys. This perhaps is being driven by lockdown fatigue and boredom, while the sunny spring weather might also be enticing drivers back into their vehicles. 

“Additionally, some who are indoors might have chosen to carry out home maintenance and DIY so have taken an opportunity to visit DIY stores that are now open.”

Lyes reminded road users of the nationwide stay-at-home directive that means cars should be driven as infrequently as possible and then only for essential purposes. “The question drivers should ask themselves before venturing out,” he said, “is ‘do I really need to?’.”

Read more

Coronavirus and the car industry

Back to top

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
scotty5 8 May 2020


Does anyone know the name of a motorsport which involves cars like...  I'll try and describe this best I can.  I saw a car today which was home built with a tubular frame, like an Ariel Atom. But it had very small wide tyres almost like a quad bike. the cockpit was enclosed but no windows. How can I describe it... it was a small car, it looked like Elon Musk's SUV thing ( the car that was supposed to be bullet proof but failed the test ) but much smaller - almost like a beach buggy. Is there such a thing as a trailcar or dirt car ?  I noticed it in the countryside on a single track road but all the tyres were blown. I'm therefore assuming they were using it in the forestry tracks.  If it were a Skoda it would be painted in meteor grey, you know that non-metallic light grey colour which seems evermore popular.

Peter Cavellini 8 May 2020

Hill climb special?

 Only name related to the heading is Cannon, dates from about the early 1960's?

Peter Cavellini 8 May 2020

Lockdown benefit?

 Apparently the Hole in Ozone layer has closed!, pollution in some areas has dropped dramatically, people are taking more excercise, these I'm sure are good for us all, it shows we all use our cars too much, we could plan our usage better, we, with the lockdown giving us loads of time to fill are doing stuff round our houses because we now have the time. Boris & Co are telling England might start measures to ease them out of lockdown (another three weeks in Scotland, thanks Nicola) ,yeah, there are some out on the roads at night having there usual race against there mates souped up Corsa, but who cares?

catnip 8 May 2020

Peter Cavellini wrote:

Peter Cavellini wrote:

yeah, there are some out on the roads at night having there usual race against there mates souped up Corsa, but who cares?

You might, if tieing up ambulance drivers, paramedics or medical staff in a stretched health service, took those resources away from attending to a relative of yours who is suffering from the virus.

catnip 8 May 2020

Keeping people off the roads

Keeping people off the roads is not just about them staying at home, its about keeping the volume of traffic to a minimum, reducing the chances of accidents, and the consequent need for emergency service resources. But of course we know that some dimwits are using the advantages of quieter roads to use them as racetracks. The bottom line is too many people only think of themselves, whatever they might say when surveyed, and, as scotty says, are really just sticking two fingers up at key workrs and everyone else.