Alert level drops as traffic levels rise: Garages get ready

Published:  19 June, 2020

 Garages should look for the number of vehicles coming through the door to increase over the coming weeks, as the government reduces the UK Coronavirus alert level from 4 to 3, denoting that transmission of the disease is no longer viewed as being high.

Meanwhile, IMI research has shown many motorists are concerned about how well their vehicles will perform after months of inaction, against a backdrop of rising traffic levels.

The thumbs-up for the alert change came from the Joint Biosecurity Centre, and was also approved by the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Commenting on the downward shift, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The UK moving to a lower alert level is a big moment for the country, and a real testament to the British people’s determination to beat this virus.

The move is the latest indicator of a gradual easing in restrictions. For automotive businesses, there have been a number of signs this week. Road traffic figures released by the DfT on Monday (15 June) showed that road traffic had risen to 77% of normal over the weekend, and 74% on Monday.

The figures, using pre-lockdown March as a baseline, also showed that traffic was 49% below normal on Tuesday 24 March as lockdown began, and fell to 23% below normal on Monday 13 April. Traffic levels then rose to around 40% in early May, gradually growing from there. 

Despite this, IMI research has shown that around a third of motorists are concerned about returning to the road, with the average mileage for most motorists since March being just 26 miles. More than a quarter are concerned that their car will break down, and the IMI is urging motorists to head to a garage as soon as possible. The MOT extension is also a concern.

IMI CEO Steve Nash commented: "Consumers are being encouraged to get back out into the shops and workers urged to get back to work; but at the same time asked to avoid public transport. However, the MOT on millions of vehicles has already expired, which means even the most basic checks haven't been done. Indeed, there are claims that more than a million vehicles due for their MOT since lockdown are likely to have failed. Combined with the fact that more than a third of the motorists don't feel confident to do longer journeys, we are very concerned that drivers are running the risk of getting behind the wheel of unroadworthy cars, putting themselves and other road users at risk."

The IMI is encouraging  motorists to do some basic checks  as a minimum, and also to get their vehicle checked over by a professional before they embark on longer journeys. Steve observed: "While nearly 19% of respondents cited taking advantage of the MOT extension because they didn't want to take additional health risks, for those whose MOT has already expired – notwithstanding the government's extension - it would make sense to get the MOT undertaken now.

Steve added: “MOT Testing Centres are open and ready to help drivers – with all the appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures in place."

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