The change in driving habits enforced by the coronavirus pandemic has slashed the miles that UK workers commute by up to 550 million per week, according to a new study from pay-by-mile insurance provider, By Miles.
The research paints a dramatically transformed picture of driving culture in 2020, shaped by the Government’s work from home policy advice and other restrictions on daily life. As well as saving commuters over £100 a month in fuel costs, the net reduction in journeys has probably helped the UK take another big step towards meeting lower global emissions targets.
On average, commuters have driven around 30 miles fewer per week, when compared to driving levels before the first lockdown in March. The number of people traveling to work by car has been cut by 3.5 million to 11.4 million, falling from 14.8 million pre-Covid.
With a second UK lockdown already upon us, the downward trend in driving levels is likely to continue into 2021. Yet, despite a reminder from the Financial Conduct Authority for insurance firms to review the value of their services during the pandemic, only a small number of car insurance providers have initiated a refund service for customers who are driving much less than the policies they have paid for permits.
James Blackham, co-founder of By Miles comments: “During the first national lockdown driving levels dropped suddenly and dramatically, and so insurance claims followed suit. This saved car insurance companies over £1 billion in claims payouts.
“Despite this, motorists have continued to pay the same insurance premiums, even though they’ve clearly not been using their vehicles as much as when they first took out their policies. We want to see the over £1 billion in claims savings that insurance companies have made passed onto customers. Some providers have established new refund policies, where the onus is on the customer to apply for a small refund, but this is not enough.
“As the crisis rumbles on, with no immediate end in sight for restrictions, it looks like drivers will continue to be penalised unfairly. And with 550 million miles fewer being driven every week, the need for a more flexible and fit-for-purpose insurance and tax system is urgently needed in order to protect drivers from overpaying in this financially difficult time.”
It’s not just commuting miles that have been impacted, as the research also suggests that up to 26 million (48%) Britons are driving less overall since the pandemic started. This is despite periods when travel was permitted and encouraged by the Government, and the top reasons for the reduction in car usage are revealed as people walking more (34%) and increased usage of online shopping deliveries (28%).
Unsurprisingly, just 7% of Britons believe they are driving more since the pandemic started, with the top reason for using cars more is an unwillingness to use public transport due to ongoing health concerns.
While the dramatic drop in vehicle usage can clearly be attributed to the Covid crisis, previous data collected in July from By Miles revealed a general growing public appetite for reducing car usage on a long-term basis. An estimated 30 million (72%) UK drivers planned to cut down their annual mileage in the next year. The research revealed the challenges faced by the public with this, however, with 93% of drivers admitting it would be hard to do without clear incentives such as cheaper monthly premiums for driving less topped (36%), cheaper and more regular public transport (34%), and reducing car tax if you drive less (33%).
Those that have used their cars less this year have largely had to take their own action to save money, in what is already a financially difficult time.
Ash Phillips, 31, is a Company Director from Bristol: “Initially, I estimated driving around 8,000 miles this year. My actual miles for the year will be much lower, mainly due to the pandemic as we’re not driving anywhere right now. I’ve saved a huge amount of money on my insurance since switching to a pay-by-mile policy from By Miles. On top of the initial saving from my previous insurance (over £400), I’ve saved an extra £200 this year as I haven’t been driving. It’s great to be rewarded by my insurance company for not driving as much, whilst still maintaining the cover provided by the policy.
“My attitude towards driving has definitely changed as a result of the pandemic. From a work and personal perspective, the new mindset is quality over quantity. If I’m going to drive somewhere, I want to make sure that it’s worth it, so it needs to be an occasion or an event or an experience, not just a trip to the shops that’s super flippant. If this is the case, I’ll look to walk or use the bus.
“On the work side of things, previously we lived in a world where people would ask if a meeting or call could have been an email. Now the question is could this physical meeting be a Zoom meeting? What are we gaining by driving to each other’s offices that we can’t achieve over the phone or on a Zoom?
“It definitely makes me think about travel from a different perspective – as a company, as a person and culturally, it’s so important for us to be looking after the planet. Being rewarded financially for doing something that helps to lower emissions is a great bonus.
“I signed up for By Miles before the pandemic hit, and even then, it was a good decision. But since the pandemic hit, it’s become an even better decision.”