Brits woefully unprepared for post lockdown driving

Technician under bonnet

A third are nervous of going on longer journeys; a quarter are concerned their car might break down through lack of use

  • On average UK motorists have driven just 26 miles since lockdown
  • 38% say they have lost their confidence for longer journeys
  • 57% of London drivers are nervous about doing longer journeys yet 61% of Londoners plan to use their car instead of public transport
  • More than a quarter of Brits are worried their car may break down
  • Only a quarter have checked their tyre depth; just a third have tested their brakes
  • The IMI urges motorists to get ‘locked down cars’ checked by a professional

As rules on lockdown loosen with non-essential shops opening up in England, but the government continuing to urge people to avoid public transport unless essential, the big question is whether drivers are happy about getting back behind the wheel and whether their car is roadworthy. According to new data1  commissioned by automotive industry professional body, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), thousands of road users could be at risk.

With many vehicles ‘locked down’ for much of the last 12 weeks, the IMI is urging motorists to do some basic checks before they set off. Only 26% of motorists surveyed admitted to checking their tyre depth during lockdown and just a third have tested their brakes. Just under a third have checked water (32%) and oil (31%) levels. Yet more than 1 in 4 (28%) plan to use their car instead of the public transport they would have used before COVID-19 as they return to workplaces.

Do you plan to use your car for commuting when you return to work instead of the public transport you would have used pre COVID-19?


And the risk is heightened as a result of the government’s 6 month extension on MOTs, as Steve Nash, CEO of the IMI explained.

“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 claims2  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 urging motorists to do some basic checks – as a minimum – and if at all possible, to get their vehicle checked over by a professional before they embark on longer journeys. According to the IMI research, more than 1 in 10 motorists are concerned their vehicle is not roadworthy and over a quarter (26%) are worried their car might break down as a result of it not being used for the last 3 months.

Plus, 1 in 10 motorists are unaware or unsure if they risk being fined if their car is in an unroadworthy condition. Yet the government has made it clear that while the MOT extension is in place vehicles on the roads must be safe 3.

“While nearly 1 in 5 (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”, added Steve Nash.  “MOT Testing Centres are open and ready to help drivers – with all the appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures in place.”

The IMI also has concerns over the confidence of drivers heading back onto the road. Its research shows a third of drivers admitted they are nervous about driving long distances post lockdown; 38% admitted they have lost confidence in their driving ability.

Interestingly the nervousness of driving generally decreases as age increases. 72% of those in the 25-34 age bracket said they were nervous; 47% of 35-44 year olds said the same. However, this concern decreases to just 1 in 5 for those aged 55 and over. Regionally the picture is varied too. 57% of Londoners admitted to being nervous about driving further distances – perhaps indicative of past reliance on public transport.  But just 18% of Scottish drivers admitted the same.  

“It seems many drivers are nervous about getting back on the road, and their vehicles may be unroadworthy too”, concluded Steve Nash.  “Which is why we are strongly urging drivers to use the IMI Professional Register to identify the local garages that employ appropriately qualified individuals, and book their car for a service and/or MOT as soon as they can.”

IMI top 5 tips for getting your car safely back on the road:

  1. Check tyre depth - use a 20p coin, if the outer band of the 20p coin is obscured when it is inserted, then your tread is above the legal limit.
  2. Oil level – use the car’s dipstick to check the oil level
  3. See clearly - clean your windscreen and mirrors thoroughly
  4. Be seen – turn on your lights and hazard warnings and walk around the car to ensure they are all working
  5. If in doubt take it to your local garage. Don’t risk it.

1 Online survey conducted by Atomik Research among 2,006 respondents from the UK who were all drivers. The research fieldwork took place on 5th June – 8th June 2020.
3  Government announcement: Coronavirus: MOTs due from 30 March 2020