Road traffic sees largest falls since quarterly records began

The amount of motor vehicle traffic on the roads fell 18.9 per cent for the year ending September 2020 following coronavirus lockdown measures.

The fall on the same period in the previous year represents the largest drop since quarterly records began in 1994.

Car traffic specifically fell by 20.9 per cent to 219.9 billion vehicle miles, while van and lorry traffic decreased by 11.4 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.

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Traffic during rush hour on the M40 near Warwick.

Traffic levels also dropped on each type of road, with motorways down 24.9 per cent, A-roads down 18.7 per cent, and minor roads down 15.9 per cent.

Car journeys were affected more than vans and lorries, which is likely because professional drivers have continued to work throughout the pandemic. Meanwhile, motorways saw a bigger drop than smaller roads as motorists stuck to local journeys throughout the pandemic.

This data includes the six months following the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures being put in place, and initial analysis suggests this is the likeliest cause of the drop in traffic.

The Department for Transport says its research indicates that the amount of traffic on the road would have only increased by a small amount without the pandemic, meaning the real figures are down 19.2 per cent on the originally projected totals.

The data also shows that traffic has returned to levels not seen for 20 years. Compared with the year-to-date figures from 2000, traffic was down 0.4 per cent overall, and down almost three per cent on motorways.

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