Morning rush-hour traffic levels have returned to pre-pandemic levels just as Britons face another lockdown in the face of a second-wave of Covid-19 infections, according to a report today.
Despite many still working from home, data analysed by the RAC found that morning congestion on our roads are now back to the same levels as in January.
The motoring group said the rise in traffic from 8am has broadly been caused by parents taking their children to school in cars to avoid public transport.
Morning rush hour returns: Traffic volumes from 8am to 9am are back to pre-lockdown levels as more parents are using their cars to take children to school to avoid public transport, says a new report by the RAC
RAC Insurance has reviewed ‘hundreds of thousands’ of trips taken by its customers over the last few months.
It said peak school drop-off times between 8am and 9am have led to the spike in traffic.
Analysis of average weekday traffic levels from when schools in England re-opened between Monday 7 September and Wednesday 16 September showed there were the same number of cars being driven as on a weekday in January.
Car volumes during these times were also up 55 per cent compared to the period before most schools had returned, with the stats compared to the week beginning 24 August.
The RAC said staggered drop-off times being operated by many schools are also extending the rush hour period.
After reviewing average weekday traffic levels from when schools in England re-opened between Monday 7 September and Wednesday 16 September, the RAC said car volumes had returned to the same level as they were on weekdays in January – before the pandemic struck
Traffic volumes at school pick-up times are now at around the same level between the end of school ‘rush’ of 3pm and 4pm and evening ‘rush’ of between and 5pm and 6pm, as was the case before the first coronavirus lockdown in March.
The RAC’s vehicle recovery service also shows that breakdowns have almost ‘returned to normal’, with mid-week call-outs in particular only a little below those seen during the first few winter months of the year.
But interestingly, since the schools returned patrols have – on average – been called out to more rush-hour breakdowns than expected with this being balanced out by fewer later in the day.
RAC Insurance spokesman 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.’
Growing concerns that a second lockdown could be enforced by the government to curb the rising infection rate will likely limit Britons’ willingness to return to public transport, warned Mr Dennis.
‘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,’ he added.
Traffic levels are also likely to be impacted by the start of the university term, according to Green Flag.
More than half (54 per cent) of university students surveyed by the breakdown provider said they are planning on making the drive to university this term to experience university life as best as possible.
Interestingly students from Belfast (69 per cent) and Newcastle (67 per cent) will be relying on their vehicles more than any other city in the UK, with students from Sheffield (41 per cent) the least likely to make the drive, the poll of 2,000 university students and drivers found.