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Coronavirus: 'Lockdown fatigue' blamed for increase in driving

A man putting his children into car seats Image copyright Getty Images

More people are using their cars despite the coronavirus lockdown, the RAC motoring group says.

Its analysis suggests there are 11% more vehicles on the road this week than in the second week of lockdown.

Meanwhile, the number of emergency callouts rose 18% over the same period.

"There is now mounting evidence that people are venturing back out in their vehicles," said RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes, who blamed it on "lockdown fatigue".

He also said boredom and "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."

The report follows comments from AA boss Simon Breakwell, who told the Financial Times: "Far more cars are getting back on the road."

He said about half the current AA call-outs are for people unable to start their cars on the driveway, often with flat batteries after weeks of vehicles sitting idle.

The RAC analysed "black box" driving data, breakdown numbers and route planning figures since the lockdown began to come up with its figures.

Comparing the second week of lockdown with last week, 11% more cars were on the road and 23% more daily miles were driven.

Vehicle breakdowns attended by RAC patrols climbed nearly a fifth across the same period.

The number of routes planned via the RAC Routeplanner is also increasing, suggesting a rise in trips being taken by drivers.

More routes were planned on Monday 5 May 2020 than on any other day during the lockdown, with 16% more planned on that day than just a week earlier.

"Our data clearly shows a slight, but nonetheless steady, rise in the number of drivers using their vehicles, and the distances they are travelling in them on a daily basis, compared with earlier in the lockdown," said Mr Lyes.

Essential journeys

A new survey by the RAC suggests that two out of five drivers are now using their vehicles more frequently than earlier in the coronavirus lockdown.

The top reason given for using a car more was for food and grocery shopping, with almost a quarter of drivers naming it.

Around one in 10 said that they were driving more to pick up essential supplies or for trips to a pharmacy.

But worryingly, one in 20 said they were using their vehicle more now to specifically purchase alcohol, or going out in the car specifically to visit DIY stores.

"The current advice remains to only go out when necessary for essential purposes, or where you cannot work from home," pointed out Mr Lyes. "The question drivers should ask themselves before venturing out is, 'Do I really need to?'

"By only using the car for essential journeys at this time, we're not only helping prevent the virus spreading, but are also reducing the risk of being involved in a road collision and avoiding putting any further pressure on the NHS."

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