Coronavirus: Where You Can and Can’t Drive

Close up of illuminated green traffic light

The coronavirus pandemic has turned everyone’s lives upside-down. Our favourite venues are closed, we can’t see our loved ones and we’re all getting way more acquainted with our Netflix accounts than we ever thought possible!

While this is a trying time, we all know that adhering to lockdown rules is the best way to protect people and help the NHS. The thing is, though, that not all of the rules are crystal clear. Indeed, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there are some grey areas when it comes to what you can and cannot do. This is made more confusing by the fact that everyone from your Aunty Pam to your neighbour’s dog seems to have an opinion!

PassMeFast is on a mission to clear up some of the confusion. We’ve created some handy guides that cover everything you need to know about using your car under lockdown. In this article, we explain where you can and can’t drive. Below you’ll find a list of common driving scenarios, complete with an explanation of why it’s A-OK or you should stay away!

The guidelines outlined in this article are accurate as of May 4th, 2020, but are subject to change. This is a developing situation and the Government has the power to update the rules at any time. Check out our January 2021 article on where you can and can’t drive for an updated version. 

Driving during the coronavirus lockdown 

Cartoon red car with woman driving attached to car key

We’ve already provided guidelines on how to maintain your car during the coronavirus lockdown. One of the major things you need to know is that your car has to be driven every so often to prevent the battery from going flat. That means going for a quick drive at least once every 2 weeks is required.

Under the current rules, however, you can’t just use your car willy-nilly. There are strict instructions about what counts as a reasonable excuse to get behind the wheel…

Where you can and can’t drive

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Image source: Nicolas Picard via Unsplash

Driving a short distance to an area of countryside to take a walk

We’ve put this one at the top of our list because it seems to have elicited the most confusion. Indeed, up until recently, even some members of the police weren’t clued up on the exact rules! While it’s important to stay at home as much as possible, the Government has acknowledged that daily exercise is important for both mental and physical well-being.

If you don’t have access to nice footpaths from your doorstep, you are permitted to drive a short (use your common sense here) distance to an area that is a suitable spot for your sanctioned walk.

Advice may vary by jurisdiction. The Welsh Government, for example, has stricter official guidance that stipulates only driving to exercise away from home if absolutely necessary.

Taking a road trip to the countryside that involves spending more time driving than walking

The problem with the previous rule is that it provided people with an inch, and some have taken many, many miles. Yes, whether it’s the bloke that drove from Lancashire to the North Yorkshire coast for a spot of metal detecting, or the London family that traveled to Devon for a fishing trip, certain folks are bending the rules to breaking point.

As a guide, the authorities have now explained that you cannot drive to a location for a walk if it involves you spending more time in the car than on your feet. This does not mean you should aim to set a new walking record. It means you should use your head and only drive to rural areas that are a reasonable distance away.

Driving to work because you cannot work from home

If you’re a key worker and the best way for you to travel to and from your job is by car, you are of course permitted to continue doing so. The same rule also applies to non-key workers who are still employed and cannot perform their work from home.

Driving to work because you prefer the office environment  

office conference table and chairs seen through glass wall
Image source: Drew Beamer via Unsplash

We get it—working from home is not always easy. If you’re anything like us, you’re probably sick of the sight of your living room by now. Sadly, this is not a valid excuse to pack up your stuff, hop in the car and drive to the office. Until this whole thing blows over, those of us lucky enough to have a job that we are able to do from home need to stick to doing just that.

Struggling to be productive while working from home? Here’s a few quick tips:

    • Designate a work space and keep it clean and tidy
    • Create a routine and stick to it
    • Change into proper clothes during work hours
    • Draw up a list of daily tasks and check them off as you go

You’re a key worker driving your child to school

Schools are still providing lessons for the children of key workers. If this applies to you, then you are permitted to drive your child to and from school where necessary. Some critical workers, for example, may drop their children off at school as part of their drive to work.

You’re a non-key worker driving your child to school  

Having the responsibility of home-schooling your children suddenly thrust upon you is undoubtedly stressful. Not only can you not get a minute’s peace anymore, but you’re expected to be both an educator and an entertainer! If you’ve considered locking yourself in the bathroom with a bottle of wine, you’re not alone.

Sadly, though, unless you’re a key worker, them’s the rules. Schools are not currently open for the majority of pupils, so you definitely shouldn’t just drive up to one and drop your kid off. No matter how tempting it may be.

Driving to a shop to purchase basic necessities like food and medicine

rows of supermarket trollies
Image source: Markus Spiske via Unsplash

We all gotta eat and we all have to keep ourselves in good nick to avoid placing any more strain on the health services. So, if you need to drive to a supermarket or pharmacy to shop for essentials, that is allowed.

These shopping trips need to be made as infrequently as possible. So, if you have a car, it makes sense to drive to your nearest supermarket so that you can load up on enough supplies to last you for a week or two. This is NOT an endorsement of stockpiling—only purchase what you really need.

We are advised to use delivery services where possible. In actual fact, though, time slots for these are largely reserved for the elderly and vulnerable—as they should be. As a result, securing a delivery window is harder than driving across central London at 5pm on a Friday (pre-COVID).

Driving to a shop because you really fancy some chocolate ✕ 

Self-isolating is hard enough without having to ration luxury items like chocolate and alcohol. The current rules therefore do allow you to pick up such items as part of your essential supermarket shop. What you cannot do, though, is nip out to Tesco simply because you fancy a Milky Way, or you’re missing an ingredient to make your favourite cookies. Alas, ‘popping to the shops’ was a pre-COVID privilege that we all took for granted.

Driving to deliver food packages or provide support for a vulnerable person

If someone close to you is unable to go out and do an essential shop for themselves, you can pick up their items as part of your shop and use your car to deliver the goods to their house. This might be for an elderly relative, a friend recovering from a serious illness, or a person in your neighbourhood who is having to quarantine themselves. It is recommended that you leave whatever you are delivering on their doorstep and avoid any face-to-face interactions.

Driving to visit friends or family members that do not live with you  

Blue car parked in front of house
Image source: Oli Woodman via Unsplash

One of the toughest aspects of social distancing is not being able to see family and friends. It is against the rules to pay visits to other people. So, unless they live under the same roof as you, it may be a while until you can have in-person interactions with some of your loved ones. This is certainly not easy, but it’s a sacrifice everyone is having to make for the greater good. Luckily, we live in an age of technological advancements that allow us to at least keep in touch virtually!

Driving to drop off some leftovers at your mate’s house because you made too much food is not on. Neither is driving to meet people in a public space, even if you intend to stay 2 metres apart. Every time you leave the house you are potentially putting yourself and others at risk of catching the virus. Unfortunately, therefore, driving to see friends and family is off the table for now.

Dropping your child off at their other parent’s house

If you are co-parenting with someone that you have since separated from, you are allowed to drive to and from this person’s house in order to collect or drop off your child. Parenting is a huge responsibility and, understandably, some people are continuing to share custody of their children during the lockdown. Just make sure that your child is frequently washing their hands and is mindful of the importance of hygiene.

Dropping your child off at someone else’s house because they’re getting on your nerves  

As we’ve previously mentioned, parents are having to shoulder quite a burden while schools are closed and everyone is advised to stay at home. Not being able to see family and friends also means that plenty of people are missing some valuable childcare opportunities. As exhausting as it might get, you do not have the option of driving your child to a different house so that you can get a well-earned break. Shutting yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes may really be the best option. Hang on in there!

Driving to pick up materials to fix something that has broken on your property

As you’re going to be spending most (if not all) of your time there, it’s fairly important that your living space is in good condition. The Government has confirmed that if, say, a fence in your garden needs mending, you are allowed to purchase the materials needed to fix it. Hardware store down the road still open? You can drive there to get what you need. Ideally, though, you should purchase such things online.

Driving to pick up materials for a home improvement project

Paint roller painting white wall blue
Image source: Theme Photos via Unsplash

When you’re sat at home all day twiddling your thumbs, it is very easy for interior design inspiration to strike. If you’re one of those households that always has a few cans of paint kicking around in the shed, then by all means pop your overalls on and get creative! If, however, a DIY project requires you to purchase more materials, you cannot use this as an excuse to drive. Unless a home improvement task is necessary to make your house habitable, all renovations need to be put on hold.

Driving to receive or provide medical help

Health is at the forefront of everyone’s mind right now. It’s good to know, then, that if your isolation buddy falls ill and requires medical assistance, you are free to drive them to a GP surgery or hospital. Remember, though, that if their symptoms are mild, there are other options. You may be able to speak to a doctor over the phone or book an online consultation. Similarly, if you are a medical professional whose services are required, you are permitted to use your vehicle to make emergency house calls.

Driving to your second home ✕ 

Some people have more than one home to their name. It’s alright for some, eh?! At this point, if you decide that you want to move to your other house, it’s way too late to make the switch. We were all informed that a lockdown was going to be enforced weeks ago. Everyone was told to select their isolation venue (not all of us had a choice!) and hunker down there for the foreseeable future.

Your second home will (probably) still be there when the rules are lifted. And anyway, given everything going on right now, this is a dilemma that warrants very little sympathy…

Coronavirus: Where you can and can’t drive

By now you should have a fairly thorough idea of where you can and can’t drive during the coronavirus lockdown. Keep in mind that these guidelines apply to healthy people only. If you or someone you are living with experiences any symptoms of COVID-19, you must all remain indoors.

Even those of us who are fighting fit need to be extra careful when making car journeys at the moment. Just because the roads are clearer does not mean that they’re safer! In fact, there has been a dramatic increase in speeding since the lockdown began. Keep your wits about you and only drive when it is absolutely necessary.

Looking for more useful tips and up-to-date information on driving during the coronavirus lockdown? Check out our articles on what to do in the event of a breakdown, cleaning tips to keep your car safe and advice on MOT expiry dates.

Until next time, stay healthy and happy isolating!

By Isobel Robb

Isobel enjoys the freedom of the open road and loves driving to new places. She's here to offer helpful hints and tips to improve your motoring skills. When not keeping up to date with the latest driving info you can find her discovering new restaurants or exhausting her Netflix subscription.

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