The recent lockdown saw a huge drop in traffic on Sydney’s streets. There were only 65 million journeys, 43% less than the same period in 2019. No doubt traffic will build up again after lockdown. If surveys are right, many people have neglected to maintain their cars. Further, could the lockdown affect people’s driving abilities?
Forgetting how to drive
The 2021 lockdown pushed traffic volumes 20% lower than during the 2020 lockdown. It’s possible there will be more traffic than ever because Covid has affected our intentions to drive. In fact, 20% of people plan to use public transport less and 5% say they intend to drive every day – even after the pandemic.
Some 56% of drivers responding to a Ford poll in May 2021 said people had forgotten how to drive when the last lockdown ended.
The current lockdown is much longer, giving motorists even more time to forget. Similar attitudes to post-lockdown driving showed up in a recent UK survey:
- A third of UK motorists felt nervous about their own ability to drive
- Three quarters were worried about other road users who weren’t used to driving
- Some 44% were nervous about the prospect of long trips
- Some 55% of under 25s felt nervous about their ability to drive safely again.
Given the nervousness about driving again, it’s perhaps surprising that some people are taking more risks on the road.
Taking more risks after lockdown
In Australia, a quarter of drivers admit to taking more road risks since the first lockdowns in 2020. For example:
- 17% more drivers speed
- 9% more use a mobile phone behind the wheel
- 5% more run a red light or stop sign
- 3% more drive after a few drinks.
They claim they took risks because they perceived the emptier roads to be “safer”. Perhaps the effect of lockdown made drivers more frustrated with any kind of restriction. However, claims research over the years shows around 30% of accidents happen close by in the driver’s own postcode. So they do not have to drive far in a risky way to crash.
Another cause of accidents is driving a car that is not well maintained and even a car that is so dirty it restricts vision.
Important reminders before driving again
After a long period in the garage, some vehicles will be in a poor mechanical state. Especially as many people neglected their usual habits, such as servicing, checking tyres, or keeping oil and water topped up. Some 16% of UK motorists said they didn’t check their cars at all during lockdown.
NRMA callouts for its roadside services offer valuable clues to the type of neglect. Top of the list is batteries, followed by wheels and tyres and electrical faults. It’s not surprising batteries are a problem because they tend to drain more when a car sits in the garage than when they are used.
Another important reminder is to recognise school zones again. Motorists became used to schools being closed and may have become complacent or forgotten when school zones operate. Make sure you become familiar with the school zones in your area. Driving offences in school zones carry heavier fines than those same offences outside school zones.
A checklist before you drive
Nearly a third of drivers said they were concerned about the safety of their vehicles. If you are concerned about your vehicle (and yourself), use this simple checklist:
- Oil and water levels
- Tyre pressure
- Does your car need a good wash?
- Does your car need servicing?
- Is registration current?
- Is your other insurance current?
- Do I need refresher lessons?
Remember, if your car falls out of registration by more than 21 days, you will have to register it for 12 months. If your car is out of registration for 3 months, you have to start a new registration with extra costs.
Keep up to date with when your renewals are due by ordering greenslips.com.au rego reminder stickers.