One in Three Drivers Worried About Rusty Skills, Rising Traffic Levels


April 2021
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One in Three Drivers Worried About Rusty Skills, Rising Traffic Levels

As lockdown measures are eased and traffic levels rebound, one in three motorists are anxious about returning to the roads, a new survey from Co-op Insurance has found.

Traffic levels dropped dramatically last year as the UK was placed under stay at home orders to combat the spread of COVID-19. With commutes suspended, family outings cancelled and even trips to the supermarket were replaced by home deliveries, many Britons have only occasionally taken their vehicles out of their garages. Last April, during the first lockdown, traffic fell to a level not seen since 1955.

The third national lockdown this winter saw more of us driving. Traffic volume was up 10% in January compared to March 2020, according to data from 100 local authorities in England. 

But it was only last week, as pubs and shops were allowed to reopen, that traffic levels climbed to 91% of the level seen in the first week of February 2020, before the pandemic hit our shores.

Some drivers easing onto the roads recently are worried that their skills—or those of their fellow road users—have deteriorated in the interval. More than one in three (35%) of UK drivers are nervous about driving on busier roads. This includes 46% of women and 25% of men. 

Young drivers, who have less practice behind the wheel, are the most concerned. 84% of drivers aged 16 to 24 admit they’re worried about higher levels of traffic. Nearly a third (32%) say they haven’t been on a motorway while the UK was under lockdown.

Many motorists are more worried about other drivers than their own skills. Nearly four in ten (39%) say their main worry is that other drivers will be aggressive, while 30% admit their own driving skills are “rusty” and “out of practice.”

The risk on the roads won’t just come from rusty skills. One in four car owners admitted they haven’t carried out basic maintenance on their vehicles in the last six months, leaving them at risk of preventable breakdowns.

Charles Offord, managing director of Co-op Insurance, said: “It’s concerning to hear that many of the nation’s drivers feel anxious about busier roads and aggression from other drivers. We’re urging people to reacquaint themselves with their car before embarking on longer journeys and to check that it has had all relevant checks and services.”

Data from Co-op Insurance reveals that drivers are right to be wary. The auto insurer said it saw a jump in claims related to fender benders and accidents from the week starting 12 April. 

The surge of accidents follows a year of low car insurance claims volumes and huge savings for insurers. Last year, motor injury claims nearly halved, falling 46%, according to data from the government’s Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU). This reduction has saved insurers an estimated £29 billion, leading to calls for the industry to discount premiums.

Meanwhile, in the long term, the pandemic may actually increase traffic volumes. 37% of survey respondents told Co-op Insurance that they plan to use public transport less frequently than before the pandemic due to worries about infection.