Coronavirus and our roads: traffic down, but the law still applies and new things for drivers to think about

02 April 2020

Most of us are heeding Government coronavirus advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. The list of reasons anybody should be going anywhere is short. Highways England, the AA, RAC and others tell us that traffic volumes are down. We hear they were 64 per cent lower than normal on England’s motorways and major ‘A’ roads on Tuesday.

Mind you, that is still a lot of traffic and I don’t envy the police officers who need to judge whether a journey is or isn’t within the guidelines. In some of the cases that have hit the headlines it was probably a fairly straightforward call! Unless you are going to work (that can’t be done at home), delivering vital supplies or providing another essential service there aren’t too many reasons to be on the road.

Because the roads are much quieter it seems that a tiny minority have decided to put their foot down – ignoring speed limits.  Tempting it may be, but it’s still illegal and still dangerous.  And if it results in a crash, it puts extra pressure on the NHS and blocks the road for everybody else – including the lorries with food and medical equipment on them.  For the benefit of everyone, please be sensible and stick to the law.  Many chief constables have made it clear that they’ll keep enforcing it!

As in many areas of life, the Covid-19 restrictions have resulted in new things for road users to think about.  MOT certificates have been extended, but how do you keep your car in good order if your garage is struggling with staff numbers?  If you aren’t using your vehicle do you need to insure it?  If it’s parked on a public road, yes.  If it’s not then, in theory, perhaps you could save a few pounds – but it would be risky if something unexpected happened on your drive.  Pros and cons, as ever.

One of the issues which came up while discussing current issues with the AA and RAC this week, was that some vehicles will be parked for days and weeks on end.  Popping to the supermarket once a week will usually be enough to keep the battery charged up.  But for those of us who are strolling to the shops, keeping two metres apart from everybody we meet, it could be a problem when you next need the car.  Both the AA and RAC have information about battery health, fuel, brakes and tyres on their websites.  Incidentally, the AA is doing free breakdown cover for NHS staff.

Finally, it’s interesting to note the different approaches to tolls and charges at the moment.  Here’s a selection:

  • Dartford crossing: normal rates
  • London congestion charge: suspended
  • M6 toll: normal rates
  • Mersey tunnels: charges suspended
  • Tamar bridge: charges suspended
  • Tyne tunnels: normal rates.


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