Car usage during England’s third national lockdown is at a similar level to May 2020, when Covid-19 restrictions were being eased for the first time and people were encouraged to return to their workplaces.

Data from RAC Black Box Insurance shows there were 10 per cent more cars in use during the first week of the third lockdown in January 2021 than there were during the first week of the first lockdown in March 2020, with 31 per cent more miles driven.

This level of car use is still lower than normal pre-Covid levels, though – down 22 per cent compared with the first week of February 2020, for example.

The quietest week for traffic since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic was the second week of the first lockdown, when there was a 41 per cent reduction in car use across the UK. The highest, on the other hand, was the week commencing 7 September – traffic returned to normal levels at this point, with children heading back to school after the summer holidays.

The RAC also reports that its patrols have had their busiest start to a New Year on record, with eight per cent more breakdowns attended in the first four days of 2021 than in typical previous years. Cold weather and cars having not been used much will have been a factor in this, but it also shows drivers still feel they have essential reasons to be out on the road.

RAC data insight spokesman Rod Dennis commented: “Despite the whole of the UK now under a further coronavirus lockdown, our data shows the number of cars in use has not dropped to the same extent it did the first time restrictions were brought in last March.”

He added: “It’s vital drivers think carefully before using their vehicles and ensure they’re only venturing out for essential trips as specified by Government guidelines. Every unnecessary journey increases the chances of a breakdown, or worse a road traffic collision, and risks adding to the pressures being experienced by our emergency and healthcare workers.”

Trevor Sterling, chair of the Major Trauma Group – which assists people affected by major trauma – added: “Our experience is showing a reduction in road traffic trauma patients being admitted hospital, but it is clear however that road use is much higher than before, even though the NHS is under more strain this time round. This knock-on effect could be critical, and we urge road users to think twice before taking unessential car journeys.”

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