As working from home replaces commuting and many public sector workers appear determined to refuse to return to workplaces, there’s no doubt that in general UK drivers are racking up less miles. Even a staycation is uncertain as countries such as Scotland and Wales may impose their own border restrictions and other parts of England may suffer local lockdowns. Is there a way to keep your car and pay less car insurance?
New research from pay-by-mile insurance provider By Miles reveals almost 30 million drivers (72%) plan to cut their annual mileage to reduce emissions in the wake of lockdown. But, 93% admit it’s hard to do.
The research, which asked British drivers if they were looking to reduce their personal carbon emissions and how they intended to do it, reveals the top actions people are taking, or plan to take, in 2020 to lower their emissions.
Despite transport being the biggest contributor to carbon emissions in the UK, activities like recycling regularly (95%), decreasing food waste (91%) and reducing use of single-use plastics (88%) topped the list.
In fact, only 46% of drivers correctly identify transport as the biggest contributor to UK carbon emissions and only half (49%) know short journeys of less than one mile are the most polluting. This is because cold engines use much more fuel until they warm up, which can take about 5 miles.
To reduce the mileage they’re clocking up in their cars, drivers surveyed plan to switch to walking or cycling for short journeys: to the corner shop or the pub (29%), by working from home (12%), by using more public transport (11%) or car sharing when traveling to and from work (5%).
However, 21% of people say their lifestyle does not allow them to drive less, while others list the convenience of driving (35%), lack of public transport (26%) and a lack of incentives from insurers (20%) and Government (16%) as the main reasons why they struggle to reduce the mileage they’re driving in their cars.
UK drivers are calling for more support to cut down mileage from both the government and insurers alike. Cheaper monthly premiums for driving less topped the list (36%), followed by cheaper and more regular public transport (34%), cheaper car tax if you drive less (33%), more practical advice on how to actually reduce mileage (26%), free MOTs for lower mileage drivers (27%) and being able to work from home more regularly (23%).
And By Miles has proven that flexible pay-as-you-go insurance policies can be part of the solution, surveying their own members, with 36% of people on a pay-by-mile car insurance policy saying they’re driving less since starting on the policy – while 82% confirmed it was specifically the pay-as-you-drive policy that’s influenced them to cut the number of miles they’re driving.
James Blackham, co-founder of By Miles comments, “Months of lockdown have proven the impact that driving less has on air pollution and carbon emissions. And it’s shown millions of drivers that it is possible to cut back, even slightly, by making small changes.
“But we need to make it even easier for people to make changes that will save the planet, and incentivise them to do it. It’s clear that people want to take positive action, but with little guidance coming from the Government and insurers taking little responsibility, the burden has fallen on the shoulders of the public. This isn’t fair.
“The Government needs to share practical advice on how to reduce mileage in private vehicles, and make it readily available. They also need to introduce greater financial incentives to increase the pace of change. And we know these little nudges work – just look at the success of the plastic bag tax. Reducing tax for those who drive below 7,000 miles a year would be a brilliant start, and would show those who reduce their miles that their actions are appreciated.
“This crisis has shown UK drivers that the way car insurance works is unfair. Insurers have pocketed £1 billion in profits from a decrease in claims as cars weren’t on the road. Insurance needs to evolve to work in this new world. It’s time to move towards car insurance that offers more flexibility and actually encourages people to drive less.
“Our advice to anyone that can drive less is – if it’s under a mile, walk or car share where possible, and if you’re able to cut your mileage down to under 150 miles a week (that’s about 7,000 miles a year), then consider a pay-by-mile insurance policy. You could save over £150 while saving the planet at the same time. Now more than ever, it’s clear that people must be rewarded for driving less.”
Over half of drivers (59%) say they believe that those who drive less should pay less for their insurance and By Miles’ pay-by-mile policy offers drivers the chance to cut their bills if they are a lower mileage driver (someone who drives fewer than 7,000 miles a year.)
Simon Birkett, Founder and Director, of Clean Air in London, said:
“Hallelujah! It’s great to see ‘business‘ making it easier and fairer for those who must drive to pay only for the amount of pollution that they actually emit. We urgently need Ministers and Mayors to support and build on these sorts of initiatives. They could start by replacing the current blunt instruments of the ultra low emission zone and congestion charging in central London and the London-wide Low Emission Zone with bigger, stronger, smarter and fairer Emissions Based Road Charging. The time for a cleverer, joined up approach to traffic pollution is now.”
Clara Goldsmith, Campaign Director, The Climate Coalition, comments:
“Incentivising people to get out of their cars is a great way to lower our carbon emissions and help tackle climate change. We’ve seen the positive effects of less road traffic in the past few months with much of the country enjoying cleaner air, but as lockdown eases we are already seeing more cars on the roads and pollution levels on the rise. This research shows that Brits are willing to make the changes necessary to reduce their contribution to climate change, but for many these changes are difficult to do at the moment.
We need investment in the solutions we need to live sustainably. It is fantastic that By Miles is also a signatory of our Declaration; an open letter to the Prime Minister asking for a healthy, greener, fairer tomorrow because we need the government to make it easier and cheaper to get around without a car. Transport makes up around a third of the UK’s carbon emissions. That is why we need the UK government to build a zero carbon transport system fit for the 21st century which can boost productivity, create jobs and clean up the air we breathe. Instead of new road building, priority should be given to the electrification and upgrade of public transport, increasing investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, speeding up the transition to electric vehicles and a long term programme of investment for walking and cycling.”