Drivers continue to shun public transport as car dependency reaches 15-year high

  • New poll of over 2,600 motorists by the RAC shows car dependency at 15-year high
  • Four out of five said they would struggle without access to a car
  • Some 45 per cent said they expect to travel by public transport less in future

Time 7:42 am, October 23, 2021

Drivers’ dependency on cars has reached a 15-year high despite a drop in commuting, a new survey has found.

In an RAC poll of motorists, more than four out of five (82 per cent) respondents said they would struggle without access to a car.

That is up from 79 per cent last year and 74 per cent in 2019, and is the highest level since 2006.

When it comes to visiting friends and relatives, 68 per cent of those who rely on car said the distance they have to travel is too far to walk or cycle.

Some 57 per cent said the car is quicker than other options, and 53 per cent said there are no feasible public transport services.

Drivers in rural areas are more likely to be car-dependant (87 per cent) than town and city dwellers (77 per cent).

The survey of 2,652 UK motorists also suggested that the five-day-a-week commute will not return for most people.

Just 32 per cent of respondents said they will drive to a workplace every working day in the future, compared with 49 per cent before the virus crisis.

The average expected number of commuting days was three.

Meanwhile, drivers’ negative attitudes towards public transport appear to be hardening.

Fewer than half (46 per cent) said they would use their car less even if train and bus services improved, down from 59 per cent three years ago.

Some 45 per cent said they expect to travel by public transport less in future as a direct result of the pandemic.

The RAC poll backs up numerous pieces of research over the past 12 months showing the drivers’ lack of desire to use public transport.

The latest research from AA Cars, for instance, showed already high demand in the used car market accelerated again earlier this year.

As the economy improved, AA Cars found many people opted to drive rather than take public transport.

Commenting on the RAC figures, the firm’s data insight spokesman, Rod Dennis, said: ‘Many drivers clearly expect that hybrid working will become the norm, which could have a profound effect on the overall volume of vehicles on the roads during the week.

‘It’s also clear just how important the car is to so many people, a relationship that appears to have strengthened due to Covid-19.

‘A greater proportion of drivers than ever say they’d find it hard to live without one.

‘In so many cases, the car is faster, more reliable and is really the only feasible option for the sorts of distances people travel, whether that’s to the local supermarket a few miles away or to see friends and family on the other side of the country.

‘If the challenge faced by policymakers in getting drivers out of their cars before the pandemic was akin to trekking up a steep hill, our research suggests they now have a veritable mountain to climb.’

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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