The number of kilometers traveled by cars in Dorset fell by a quarter last year, with travel impacted by the coronavirus lockdown, figures show.
Last year, motorists drove the fewest kilometers on the region’s roads since the turn of the century.
But any respite in traffic levels will soon be over, says the RAC, which predicts a busy summer on the roads as restrictions are relaxed.
Data from the Department of Transport shows cars and taxis traveled around 2.4 billion kilometers on Dorset roads in 2020.
This was 24% less than in 2019, when 3.2 billion kilometers were traveled.
The situation was similar across Great Britain with a 25% drop in the number of kilometers traveled by car.
The DfT said the numbers had been heavily impacted by the effects of the coronavirus, with travel restrictions in place for many months of last year.
Still, early indications from the government show that traffic could return to 2019 levels as the lockdown is eased.
And the RAC said it had already noticed an increase in the number of vehicles on the road this year, adding that it expected a busy summer.
Nicholas Lyes, Head of Policy, said: âWith traffic now returning to near-normal levels and restrictions set to ease further over the next few weeks, we expect the summer to be busy on roads.”
But the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, a group that represents the bus and coach industry, says it hopes people won’t go back to their cars.
The group wants the country to avoid a âcar-based takeoverâ. Instead, he hopes to encourage people to use public transport.
Alison Edwards, Group Policy Officer, said: “This means ensuring that public transport is not left behind in other areas of the economy as part of the ongoing social distancing review. and that ministers openly encourage people to get back on buses and coaches.
“Without it, we will see greater congestion slowing our economic recovery as well as deteriorating air quality and increasing carbon emissions.”
However, the RAC said its research had shown the lockdown had heightened the importance people place on car ownership.
Figures from the DfT also show that car trips accounted for 77% of all road kilometers in Dorset in 2020, with trucks and commercial vans making up the rest.
Total mileage for all traffic was 3.1 billion miles, down 22% from 4 billion miles in 2019.
The DfT said a drop in the number of kilometers driven on the country’s roads coincided with fewer accidents and faster travel times on main roads.
A spokesperson said work was underway with transport operators to ensure “good levels of service” as the pandemic abates.