The ‘stay at home’ message appears to be having less effect on Dundee drivers, as data reveals traffic is substantially higher than the first lockdown.
Current Covid-19 travel restrictions allow essential journeys only – for work, education, exercise, “essential shopping”, shared parenting and caring for a vulnerable person.
However, recorded traffic hit 641,178 in Dundee between Boxing Day last year and New Years Day – 17% higher than the first week of the first lockdown in March last year.
And, in the second week of this current lockdown, that figure jumped again to 740,078 vehicles, an increase of 27% on the corresponding week in April last year.
According to Traffic Scotland, who supplied the data, that means current traffic levels in Dundee are higher than the first lockdown – approaching half of “normal” pre-pandemic levels.
Traffic data has caught the attention of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who recently said the Scottish Government was “considering whether other restrictions are required”.
The Scottish Government’s five level plan for coronavirus protections remains in effect, with mainland Scotland having now moved from Level 4 to a temporary lockdown.
John Alexander, the city council leader, said he had noticed the difference on the roads compared to last spring.
He said: “Obviously, if those movements relate to people maybe not following the rules then that would be a concern, so again we just have to reiterate the point that these regulations, these rules, are there for a reason, and it’s to protect each and every one of your readers and every member of the city.
Police action on travel rule breakers increases
“We need people to stick to it and I would just reiterate the message from the first minister as well. In one sense it’s good that the numbers are still significantly down, half of what it was, that’s a significant drop. But, if we’re mindful of the fact that pretty much nothing is open right now, then we shouldn’t still be seeing that level of traffic or commuting back and forth to places.
“I’ve basically not left the house, because I walk around my own area and the only person that goes out in our car is my wife, because she’s a key worker.
“So it’s something for people to be mindful of and I go back to that point of, ‘it’s not whether you can do something – it’s whether you should do it’.”
Meanwhile, police action on travel breaches has ramped up.
Area Commander Chief Inspector David McIntosh said: “We have increased patrols in our communities to explain the regulations and to encourage people to do the right thing.
“Our approach throughout the pandemic has not changed. Police Scotland officers will continue to support people to follow the regulations and encourage them to take personal responsibility.
“People should not leave their homes unless for essential purposes. The best way to stay safe is to stay at home.
“Where officers encounter wilful breaches they will act decisively to enforce the law.”
Data shows cause for concern
Neil Greig Scotland-based policy and research director at IAM roadsmart motoring group said traffic figures were a key indicator of public compliance with lockdown.
“Viewing this data certainly shows why the [Scottish] Government are concerned about the levels of traffic in this lockdown compared to previous ones,” he added.
“What it also shows is the traditional patterns of morning and evening peaks, possibly including the school run, are continuing and the car, particularly in the middle of a freezing January, is still inextricably linked to economic activity.
“If you allow more categories of people to work, then people will use their cars to do so.
“Whether it is car use itself that is contributing to rising Covid case numbers, as opposed to what people do at either end of their journey, is still unclear.
“But these figures certainly add to the case for stricter enforcement of current rules or a rethink.
“However, I don’t support road blocks – particularly on main roads and in this weather, they are a safety hazard.”
A Transport Scotland spokesperson said its latest data showed travel rates currently average 1.2 trips per person per day.
“This remains lower than the typical average of 2.7 trips per person per day before the Covid-19 pandemic.” a spokesman said.
“Travel remains down across all personal modes compared to this time last year.
“Our guidance on essential travel during the Covid-19 crisis remains the same – work from home if you can.
“For essential trips think about walking, wheeling and cycling where possible.
“Minimise public transport use, but if you do need to use public transport, please plan ahead and try to avoid peak times.
“When using public transport, please practice good hand hygiene and remember that face coverings remain mandatory on public transport in order to help stop the spread of Covid-19.”
For more information on restrictions, see gov.scot