Strange Times for Motorists: A Lockdown Stories Round-Up

An empty stretch of the M5 in Devon – photo courtesy of Devon Live.

For motorists, as for everyone else, these are strange times. Now that lockdowns are easing, here’s our selection of recent motoring news stories that grabbed our attention.

Covid-19 hits taxi drivers

First and foremost, let’s not forget the reason behind the lockdown. Covid-19 has of course extracted a terrible human cost. One particular section of the motoring community has been hit really hard. According to ONS figures, taxi drivers who continued to work have suffered some of the highest death rates of any UK occupation.

A BBC report points out that many felt under financial pressure to continue working, despite knowing the dangers.

The same report highlights that the majority of cabs in Wales lack any sort of protective screens. At the moment, the way forward is uncertain.

Restarting new car sales

In addition to the human toll, the economic costs of Covid-19 have been enormous. We’ve already blogged about the far-reaching impact on the car industry, but of course there’s been similar effects for any sector that’s involved with motoring.

In late May, the motoring industry called on the Government to re-open Britain’s 4,900 car showrooms, calculating that closure was costing the economy a staggering £61 million per day.

Dealerships are now trying to jump-start their sales by offering massive discounts and the Government is now expected to propose a new scrappage programme.

Cheaper fuel, repaired roads

As lockdown continued, demand for oil plummeted worldwide, leading to massive price drops at the pump. Supermarket fuel prices fell below £1 a litre, levels which haven’t been seen for four years.

Other good news for motorists included a push to repair potholes while the roads were quiet. Incredibly, it’s reported that Shropshire Council alone repaired almost 10,000 potholes in a less than a fortnight.

Oh those empty roads…

For most of us, the most visible sign of the lockdown was the eerily quiet roads.

Six days after the March 23rd lockdown, motor traffic had dropped by 73%, back to a level last seen in 1955. The upside of this was immediate improvements in air quality. Within one day of lockdown, levels of key pollutants had halved in major UK cities, and photographs of cities worldwide revealed gobsmacking decreases in smog.

By 5th May, traffic in the UK was still down to early 1970s levels. Sadly, this rare upside to the lockdown can’t last — already, major cities in China are returning to (or even exceeding) pre-lockdown levels of pollution.

The creative power of lockdown-dodgers

The overwhelming majority of our population complied with the lockdown, but a small proportion had pressing reasons to be out and about. BBC Wales compiled a fantastic set of excuses supplied to them by Gwent Police, including:

  • “My son is a rubbish cook so I take him food every day”
  • “I’ve just been to feed the fish”
  • “I’ve been to buy nail clippers for the dog”
  • “I’ve bought a new catapult and wanted to try it out”
  • “I don’t watch the news – what’s going on?”
  • “I’m taking my mate into Newport to buy drugs”
  • “I am taking my quad bike for a walk and I promise I am not going ride it around a field”
  • “I thought I heard someone may be in trouble, so I came to have a look but I don’t know their name or remember the person who told me it”.

Better still, one man stopped by North West Motorway Police needed his new set of eBay-purchased windows so badly that his wife was consigned to the boot for 110 miles.

Speeding rockets up

More seriously, the temptation to put one’s foot down has proven too much for some motorists. The metropolitan police recorded an eight-fold rise in speeding offences across the capital, compared to the same period last year. Extreme incidences of speeding have been reported across the country, including a BMW 7 series driver clocked by North Wales Police at 140mph on the A483.

Motorists go home!

As lockdowns started to ease, many small communities have been worried about hordes of visitors introducing Covid-19 to their area. Some have taken direct action, leading to illegal signs and roadblocks appearing in tourist areas.

Are we back to normal?

For better or worse, motoring life seems to be heading back to something resembling normality. Whether it will last is anyone’s guess. If there’s one thing Covid-19 has taught us, it’s that we never know what’s around the next bend in the road.

The Welsh VW Specialist blog covers a wide range of automotive topics, from the contentious to the light-hearted. We are an independent garage specialising (as the name suggests!) in all the VW group marques, including Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT. Welsh VW Specialists provide services, repairs and MOTs, delivering a main dealer level of care at affordable prices. To book your vehicle in, or for any enquiries, get in touch.