UK traffic congestion study reveals roads are getting safer

words Alexa Wang

Even though roads can sometimes feel busier than ever, our roads are actually statistically safer than they were a decade ago, according to data collected by ATS Euromaster.

Even before lockdown, we were getting fewer and fewer cars on our motorways and A-roads. But with fewer cars on the road, were we speeding up or slowing down? What did this mean for our average speed? We’ve analysed the data and pulled out some interesting findings for you.

road traffic congestion

Our roads have never been safer

When comparing the average flow of traffic on the M25 at the same time of day (11am) in 2008 vs 2018, there are on average 524 fewer cars on the road. This may not sound like much, but it correlates to a 30% drop in fatalities from road traffic collisions.

Our average speed is increasing

Your mother and father weren’t lying to you – it’s never cool to speed. Although not everyone is taking this on board. By looking at the data in the ATS report, we can see that our national average speed moved from 91.7kph in 2008 up to 92.9 in 2018.

The nation’s fastest road, the M5, moved out of its #1 spot in the top 10 of the report in 2018 because of something a little more pleasant – hot weather. An unusually hot summer caused a 6-month delay to the repairs of M5 Oldbury Viaduct as waterproofing couldn’t be added to the scorching hot roads.

traffic congestion

We drive faster in the holidays

The fastest recorded day out of the two decades was Christmas Day 2008, with average speeds measuring a shocking 103.7kph – do we just love our pigs in blankets so much we’re willing to break the law for them? It’d seem so.

Our national average speed in 2018 increased by 1.4kph in the summer holidays, compared to the same time in 2008 – why can this be? In 2008, we experienced a particularly miserable summer in England and Wales weather-wise, with February and March recording more sunshine than August! A decade later in 2018, we were blessed with a scorching heat wave that topped out at 32.3C.

The data suggests that there is a pretty strong correlation between summertime and speeding – who knew us Brits love to speed in the hot weather?

We love the open road

The fewer cars there are on the road, the more likely we are to go just that little bit faster, although this does not mean that we’ve now got a generation of boy-racers.

There is certainly a correlation between fewer cars on the road and an increase in speeds – on 4th May 2008, with just 8,626 cars on the M6 Toll, we saw the drivers clock an average speed of 141.2kph.

And a decade on, this hasn’t changed – with 4,244 cars on the road on 20th May 2018, we registered an average speed of 146.1kph.

Lockdown has accelerated a change in habits

Here are some other interesting findings from the report:

  • Did you know that during lockdown cycling jumped to 300% of normal levels?
  • Meanwhile, there has never been a better time to be a deliveryman, with commercial vehicles more popular than ever.

The national shutdown affected every element of our need to travel, with the tube decimated, plummeting to just 4% of normal levels in April 2020.

For more insights into the state of UK roads, read the ATS data for yourself and check out the government’s COVID-19 transport findings.


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