Telematics data from RAC Insurance drivers revealed that weekday car traffic between 8am and 9am from 7-16 September was comparable to weekday levels in January.
It's hard to know if the trend will sustain after the further tightening of lockdown measures introduced by the UK Government on 22nd September 2020. However, much of the increase road activity has been driven by parents driving children to school rather than leaving children to use public transport, a trend confirmed by the ONS.
Car volumes at the other end of the day are also now around the same pre-lockdown level between the end of the 3-4pm school collection time and the evening ‘rush’ of 5-6pm.
RAC Insurance spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “What’s abundantly apparent is how dependent parents are on the car for getting children to their places of study or play during the week – and with fewer people prepared to take public transport at the moment, the reliance on the car as the transport mode of choice has increased.
“Workers that used to drop children off and then carry on to offices or other workplaces are clearly still using their cars for these trips, but just returning home again instead. It may also be the case that many are opting for the car so they can be back at their desks to start work as promptly as possible.
“The million-dollar question, of course, is what happens next and whether morning road traffic continues to rise in the autumn, or whether it stays at the sort of level we’re seeing now. The rising number of coronavirus cases, together with the introduction of local lockdowns and the new nationwide restrictions, may also have an impact on people’s willingness to return to public transport."
Set against that is the imminent end of British Summer Time where accident volumes tend to increase as a consequence of darker nights and mornings and wetter weather.
Mr Dennis concludes that, “while there is a huge number of possible scenarios that have the potential to change our travel habits, what does appear clear is that millions of us will continue to rely on the car for completing the journeys we have to make.”