Data from drivers with RAC black box devices fitted shows that the beginning of the school year in England has led to a marked rise in cars on the road, particularly at what appears to be the peak drop-off time of between 8am and 9am. Looking at average weekday traffic between Monday 7 September and Wednesday 16 September, between these hours there were the same number of cars being driven as on a weekday in January. Car volumes during these times were also up 55% compared to the period before most schools had returned (week beginning 24 August).
Alarmingly, the figures appear to show that the UK's morning rush hour is caused more by people dropping children off at schools and nurseries than it is by commuters heading to places of work, given that many people are still working from home. The fact that many schools are operating staggered drop-off times in light of the coronavirus may also be having the effect of extending the rush hour as well as changing the morning routine for some families.
At the other end of the day, car volumes are now at around the same level between the end of school 'rush' of 3pm and 4pm and evening 'rush' of between and 5pm and 6pm as was the case before the first coronavirus lockdown in March.
Daily RAC breakdown figures also show a 'return to normal', with mid-week call-outs in particular only a little below those seen during the first few winter months of the year. But interestingly, since the schools returned patrols have on average been called out to more rush-hour breakdowns than expected with this being balanced out by fewer later in the day.
RAC Insurance spokesperson Rod Dennis said:
"While schools reopening was always going to lead to a rise in vehicle traffic, the fact that between a fifth and a third of the UK workforce is still working remotely shows just what role the school drop-off plays in creating the phenomenon we know as the morning 'rush hour'.