Adapting to ‘a new normal’ on UK roads
Being able to detect a potential hazard early enough is a crucial skill all drivers should have. And while you should always be on the look out for danger in everyday road situations, we have seen an increase in specific types of hazards - on and off the road - during the Coronavirus pandemic.
At the start of lockdown in March, ingenie drivers were making just 30% of their normal journeys. Now, 3 months on, our drivers are slowly getting back on the roads, doing around 65% of their usual mileage. But while this is more than double the initial traffic levels at the start of lockdown, it's still a long way down from the driving levels we saw before the pandemic hit.
UK roads have been significantly less busy while we all followed the Government's Stay at Home advice, but less of one thing, often means more of something else. Here's just some of the increased hazards drivers will need to continue to adapt to during the battle against Coronavirus.
Is this the new normal on our roads? #StayAlert
A quick game of eye-spy could get pretty repetitive on the roads at the moment, with 'something beginning with D' being the main spot. Whether on bike or motorcycle, bearing pizza or groceries - delivery drivers are everywhere right now! Understandably too. These drivers have been a lifeline during the pandemic, bringing goods safely to our front doors so we don't have to leave home.
So aside from there being more drivers, why is this an increased hazard? The main thing to remember is that most of the time these drivers are rushing, trying to get to everyone with their orders in the quickest possible time. They will also not be familiar with the roads that you drive regularly, so will be relying heavily on satnavs meaning they could be driving distracted and make mistakes. Bear this in mind and keep your distance when you see a delivery driver, just to allow for any driving errors.
Children off school
Home-schooling is now part of most parent's everyday life since children can't go into the classroom, so we've been seeing a lot more families out and about, getting their daily dose of fresh air and a change of scene.
Children will be super excited to get out of the house and let off steam (like all of us, really), so while you should always be sticking to the speed limits, make sure you keep your eyes especially peeled near parks, high streets and residential areas for little tykes on their trikes.
At the start of lockdown when the UK were only allowed to go out the house for an hour a day, the sudden desire to buy a bike rocketed. While sharing the road with cyclists isn't a new thing, there is a significant amount of people opting to travel by bike now - including key workers taking advantage of the quieter roads and avoiding public transport.
Checking your wing mirrors and blind spots much more frequently before turning, over taking or even opening your car door could prevent a serious accident.
Parked cars on the road
With life taking a much slower pace and many people now having to work from home, our trusty 4 wheels have been left parked up at home or on the road. More stationary cars means more opportunity for pedestrians to cross without you seeing them, car doors swinging open and drivers parallel parking in tight spaces.
Take it slow when driving down roads with bumper to bumper rows of parked cars - you don't want to be clipping wing mirrors or much worse, not seeing Mr Tiddles who only just left the cat flap for his afternoon stroll.
Traffic and queuing
With queues to get into the supermarket now a normal part of our lives and standing 2-metres apart something we've all had to quickly adhere to, it goes without saying that more people means more cars.
As restrictions ease, car parks will get jam packed, so make sure you schedule your food shopping trips around less busier times. Shoppers will also be eager to get in and out, which means they may be not be fully alert reversing in and out of bays. Whether you're driving a car or just a trolley - keep well back!
If there's one place where you can guarantee to be sat in traffic for a good while, it's a McDonald's drive-through. So if you're desperately craving a Big Mac and fries, just be prepared that it won't be the 'fast food' you're used to. Worth the wait though?!
Quieter roads can increase the temptation to put your foot down - whether you're aware you're driving over the speed limit or not, but the danger comes when you're not anticipating other drivers to be around and the worse happens. It's really important to not get complacent during these quieter times, you never know what's around the corner.
We've seen speeds of up to 60mph OVER the limit from some drivers over the last few months. That's enough for a driver to not only lose their insurance but have their licence taken away completely. Stay alert.
While it's difficult to not get over excited when there's a bit of sunshine (especially after been cooped up inside for months) at ingenie we do see an increase in driver's speeding events when good weather strikes. So remember, if you want to keep your insurance (and your licence) ready for summer road trips, take it easy as things hot up.
There's nothing like a lockdown to turn couch potatoes into fitness enthusiasts, and you only need to take a quick look outside to see that most of the UK has suddenly taken up running. More people running on pavements, means more people running out into the roads...with headphones in.
Make sure you look out for these newbie runners as well as the bigger socially-distanced running groups and always assume they haven't seen or heard you to avoid last minute slamming on the brakes.
Other hazards to be aware of...
- If you're wearing plastic gloves during your shopping trips, remember to take them off and dispose of them before you start driving, so you don't contaminate your door handles and car interior. Turning the steering wheel should be a gentle, fluid movement and so wearing latex gloves will create friction, making manoeuvres difficult.
- Lots of people haven't been driving anywhere near as much as usual, if at all, and although it may sound silly, getting back behind the wheel after a long time does leave room for human error. Remember to keep your space and be patient with drivers, new, old or just a bit out of practice!
Our cars have had an important role during the Coronavirus pandemic, from collecting and dropping off essential items to drive-through virus testing sites. Here's how to make sure you're keeping your car in good check during these strange times.
By Katey Gregory
Katey Joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of all things social and content. She passed her driving test in 2015 and her first car is a Toyota Yaris T3 named Tyrone.