Coronavirus: How The Pandemic Has Changed Our Driving Habits

Car surrounded by new pandemic rules and advice

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the UK hard. It has affected practically every aspect of our daily lives. From where we’re working to how we’re socialising to our basic shopping habits, there has been no stone left unturned. It’s also had a huge impact on our driving habits—changing the way we drive, what we see on the roads and much more.

We’re going to take a closer look at how our driving habits have changed during the pandemic and what this means for us all. We’ll also throw in some tips and advice along the way!

We’re not using our cars as much

Cartoon car with line through it

During the height of lockdown, we saw a complete shift in the way drivers were using their cars. Except for key workers, the vast majority of drivers gave up on using their cars almost completely—bar the occasional trip to the shop for essential items. This led to most major roads looking like complete ghost towns, even during peak hours. According to LexisNexis’s analysis of over 10 million UK driving journeys, driving distances fell 60% compared to figures from 2019 during the peak of lockdown.

Now, though some people are back in the office or their respective workplace, there’s still a large chunk of people working from home. What this means is that while our car usage is on the up, it’s still not quite at our pre-lockdown levels. Again, LexisNexis found that even after lockdown eased up, traffic was still down by a third on average—this includes figures from the start of August. This makes sense: when you cut out our daily commutes, we’re mostly using our cars for quick errands and trips to the shop.

The fact that our car usage has gone down is definitely a good thing. On an environmental level, we’re cutting back on the amount of harmful gases we’re emitting on the roads (unless you’re the driver of an eco-friendly car). On a personal level, it also means that we’re not spending as much money on petrol, or on the maintenance of our cars.

Please note, however, that if you’re not using your car much (or at all), you should follow our coronavirus maintenance tips to keep it ship-shape in the meantime.

Our driving skills have slipped

Cartoon driver with question mark bubble

Unsurprisingly, the decrease in car usage over the last few months has led to many drivers feeling rusty with their driving skills. A survey conducted by Hyundai found that a fifth of UK motorists had found it difficult to adjust to driving after lockdown. It’s completely understandable, of course. When you go from doing something every day, which ends up like second nature, to barely doing it twice a week, your skills are going to slip. It’s for this reason that we urge drivers to read up on our top tips to help you get your driving mojo back or download our PDF guide!

Of course, it’s not just lapses in muscle memory or routines that have led to a slide in driving habits. With emptier roads, we’ve seen many motorists eschewing speed limits entirely—travelling at more than double the limit during lockdown! As we’ll discuss further below, however, we’re now looking at an influx of pedestrians and cyclists in and around our city centres. This means that we need to get a grip on the rules now, before anyone gets hurt. You can find more information on this in our article covering why you need to stop speeding now.

We’re cleaning our cars more

Cartoon man cleaning car

Before the pandemic struck, many drivers were lucky if they were able to clean their car once a month. After all, what’s the big deal about a bit of mess? Now, however, the focus on cleanliness and hygiene has also hit our cars. It’s not enough to simply clean your hands and sanitise them. If you’re using your car, you’re potentially exposing it to the virus. With coronavirus clinging to surfaces for varying amounts of time, it’s pretty clear that a thorough clean will be needed more regularly.

Depending on your job, the frequency of your car use and whether or not you’re ferrying family members/bubble members places, you’ve got to create a far more frequent cleaning schedule. Though it can seem like a faff to have to go through the many cleaning steps, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Not sure where to start with cleaning your car? Check out our handy guide covering coronavirus car cleaning tips.

We’re packing different essentials

Cartoon man packing car boot

If you’re out and about in your car on a regular basis, as you probably know, it’s best to carry around your own car essentials in your boot. Depending on where you’re located and the time of year, these essentials would include things like a torch, blankets, tools for changing tyres and so on. (Though there are certainly plenty of drivers who like to leave things down to chance and avoid packing any!)

Now, however, drivers have had to start packing an entirely different set of essentials—COVID essentials, if you will. If you’re using your car at the moment, you’ve likely tucked away several single-use (or reusable, if you’re feeling environmentally conscious) masks in your glove compartment. You’ve probably also got at least one bottle of hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial wipes and general cleaning products to give your car a quick spritz.

Considering the pandemic doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, it’s good that drivers are taking the initiative in keeping themselves as safe as possible when out and about. If you haven’t followed suit yet, put aside 10 minutes to sort out your own COVID essentials pronto.

We’re seeing more cyclists and pedestrians

Cartoon cyclist and pedestrian

With the pandemic still raging on, many non-drivers have found themselves ditching public transport in favour of cycling and walking. Though measures have been taken to ensure buses, trams and trains are safe, or, as safe as they can be, many feel that they’re much safer travelling by foot or bike. And with many of us working from home, the need for public transport has shrunk dramatically, especially for those living in city centres. This has come with a host of benefits—helping people reduce their carbon footprint and improve their overall health.

Unfortunately, it has led to some difficulties for drivers. With the pandemic having dulled our driving skills a touch, we’re left struggling to adjust to the abnormal increase in pedestrians and cyclists. What this means is that drivers will have to ramp up their mirror checks and observations. Though this might seem like a pain, it could prove to be extremely beneficial for those on the road—it will force drivers to be far more vigilant and aware of other road users, potentially decreasing the likelihood of road accidents.

We’re seeing an increase in learner drivers

Learner driver and car key

For some people, walking or cycling simply isn’t a viable option. If you’re still having to take a long commute to work, and you view public transport as an unnecessary risk, the only real option is to turn to driving. It’s for this reason that we’ve seen a heavy increase in the number of people interested in learning to drive. Rather than depend on others, these people are looking to get their full licence, all the while keeping themselves as safe as possible.

During the height of lockdown, we were helping countless key workers get their full licence so that they could keep helping the public whilst protecting themselves from coronavirus. (You can read more about this in our key worker hall of fame!) With the booking system now open to the general public, however, our courses are once more available to all learners looking to get their licence. If you’ve already got your licence, then, you’ll likely see an increase in the number of L and P plates that you see on the road.

We’ve seen big changes to driving lessons

Coronavirus cleaning products

Coronavirus hasn’t just affected the number of people learning to drive, it’s also had a major impact on the way people learn to drive. Driving lessons have had to change dramatically to ensure both instructors and learners are kept as safe as possible in these trying times. The following precautions are now being taken across the country:

  • Driving instructors and learners have to wear face masks during lessons and tests, and where possible, must use disposable gloves.
  • Learners are expected to inform instructors if they, or a member of their household, starts showing symptoms of coronavirus.
  • Hand sanitiser is provided and frequently used throughout lessons.
  • Windows are rolled down to let in a steady stream of fresh air (weather shields are used to protect against adverse weather).
  • Controls and surfaces are thoroughly cleaned before and after lessons.

Additional precautions include temperature checks and, potentially, shorter lessons to limit exposure time between instructors and students. Though it might seem intimidating, it’s actually a good thing. It means that learners are still able to achieve their goal of getting their full licence, all the while staying safe.

You can find out more about this in our guide to how PassMeFast is making lessons and tests safe.

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.

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