• New research reveals key factors behind increased weekend traffic levels
  • Day trips instead of summer holidays, visiting family and avoiding public transport are top reasons
  • Concerns over possible future restrictions and the joy of driving are also factors

FT - leisure trips in cars GettyImages-172658290

New research by servicing and repair company Kwik Fit, has revealed the factors behind the weekend boom in car traffic volumes, which have outstripped the pre-Covid figures, yet on weekdays remain lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Over the past month (1-27 June), despite the country not yet facing full freedoms, average weekend car journey volumes were at 105% of the Saturday and Sunday levels in the equivalent pre-pandemic week. In comparison, with many people still working from home, traffic on weekdays was on average 6% lower.

Almost 7.4 million drivers say they are driving less at the weekend than before the pandemic, but these are outstripped by those making more leisure trips.

Some 5.1m drivers say they are spending more on weekend trips as they don’t think they will be having a big summer holiday this year. Being unable to see friends and family for so long is a driving factor for almost as many drivers, who are making up for lost time with weekend trips to loved ones. Around 4.3m drivers say the risk of catching Covid on public transport is leading them to opt for the car at weekends more often than they did previously.

The Kwik Fit research found that the months of restrictions have led to 4m drivers travelling further away from home for weekend leisure trips by car as they want to make the most of their free time. Those previous restrictions have left their mark on many drivers - 3.8m are wary that Covid measures may return and say that they want to get out and about while they can.

Among the other reasons given for driving more at the weekend is the actual experience of being behind the wheel, with 3.4 million drivers say they enjoy driving and as they are doing less of it during the week they want to take advantage of the weekends.

The re-opening of shops has also helped increase weekend car journeys, with 2.8m drivers saying they have made more shopping trips than they did during pre-pandemic weekends.

Kwik Fit found that Londoners are most likely to be travelling more by car at the weekend than before the pandemic, while those in Wales are most likely to be making fewer weekend car trips.

The company is urging those drivers who may only be doing weekend miles to ensure their car is in peak condition. Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, said: “When we are not using our cars every day, it’s easy to get out of the habit of regular checks and maintenance, especially during the pandemic when people’s normal routines have been turned upside down.

“Drivers may also become slightly complacent if they are not relying on their cars to get to work each day. We encourage motorists to get back into the habit of checking their car over, keeping a particular eye on tyre pressures and tread.”

He said drivers should check the levels of fluids such as oil coolant and screenwash.

How do drivers’ weekend travel habits over the last month compare to before the pandemic?

Change in weekend habits stated by drivers number of drivers Number of drivers
I don’t think I will have a big summer holiday this year so am spending more money on day trips by car 5,149,000
I’m travelling more by car at the weekend to see friends and family I have not seen for a long time due to Covid restrictions 5,123,000
I’m travelling more by car at the weekends now because I want to avoid public transport due to the risk of Covid 4,251,000
I’m travelling further distances by car at the weekend now because after months of lockdown I want to make the most of my leisure time 3,987,000
I think there could be more Covid restrictions in the coming months so want to get out and about at the weekend while I can 3,802,000
I’m making more car journeys at the weekend because I’m doing more day trips out 3,512,000
I’m travelling more by car at the weekend because I am spending most of the week at home and I feel the need to get out and see new surroundings 3,459,000
I like driving and as I am doing a lot less driving during the week I want to take advantage of the weekend 3,406,000
I’m making more car journeys at the weekend because I’ve been making more shopping trips 2,799,000

Source: Research for Kwik Fit, June 2021