The coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns have had an unprecedented impact on road use this year. In our blog analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on UK Roads back in July, INRIX data revealed Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) had dropped by as much as 56% during the first half of the year.

So, how has this impacted the safety of UK roads?

In recent weeks, we have seen reports of drivers ‘barreling through villages’, while Home Secretary, Priti Patel, condemned what she called ‘extraordinarily dangerous driving’ during lockdown earlier this year.

However, new data from INRIX reveals that the major roads around seven key UK cities have seen significantly fewer collisions this year when compared to the same period in 2019.

 Across the cities analyzed, collisions are down 36% for the April to October period
All seven cities examined have seen a meaningful downturn in collisions since the first UK lockdowns began in mid-March:

City COVID effect on number of collisions (Apr-Oct 19/20) COVID impact on VMT (Apr-Oct 19/20)
Belfast -46% -32%
Birmingham -24% -32%
Cardiff -49% -39%
Edinburgh -47% -35%
Glasgow -46% -28%
London -35% -32%
Manchester -38% -36%


Across the UK’s cities, Birmingham has seen the smallest reduction in collisions on its roads, down just 24% versus the same period in 2019. The number of incidents on the A5 and A456 have actually increased since the start of the first lockdown, with collisions on the A5 rising by 11% when compared to April-October 2019, and a 23% increase in collisions on the A456.

In contrast, Cardiff saw the greatest change, with collisions dropping 49%. Interestingly, it also saw the most significant change in VMT, the total dropping by 39%. Glasgow’s VMT reduced the least at -28%. Birmingham, Belfast and London all recorded 32% drops in VMT versus 2019.

A closer look at London shows a 35% drop in collisions from April to October compared to 2019. But across the capital’s roads, traffic and collision volumes vary significantly. Four roads (the A21, A2, A140 and M40) saw less than a 20% reduction in collisions, while three roads, the M1, A14 and M23, saw more than a 50% decrease in collisions and all three were in the top five roads with the lowest collisions across the UK.

In fact, when we dig deeper into the data, individual roads have shown some interesting changes. For instance, while Manchester’s overall data fits very close to the average drop in collisions (-38% versus 2019), we see city is home to two of the top five roads with the highest collisions, the M61 and the M6.

Other roads showing significant increases in collisions this year included the A4 in Bristol (+41%), A456 in Birmingham (+23%), and the A5 in Birmingham (+11%).

Roads with highest collisions (vs. 2019) Roads with lowest collisions (vs. 2019)
A4, Bristol +41% A1(M), Newcastle -57%
A456, Birmingham +23% M23, London -55%
M61, Manchester +22% A14, London -53%
M6, Manchester +15% A19, Newcastle -51%
A5, Birmingham +11% M1, London -51%


Analyzing the impact of the first lockdown (April to July) – Traffic collisions drop by 51%
To understand the initial impact of the first lockdown, we looked at data for the April to July period. Unsurprisingly fewer cars on the road resulted in a dramatic drop in collisions. Edinburgh experienced the biggest decrease with 68% fewer collisions. Birmingham sustained the least change at minus 34%.

Like the overall April to October period, we saw the changes in VMT broadly mirror collision trends. Edinburgh experienced the second highest decrease (-53%) in VMT, while Birmingham had the second smallest change (-47%). London, incurred the smallest change in VMT (-44%), but interestingly, collisions in the Capital were just above the average across the ten cities (down 52% vs 2019). 

City COVID effect on number of collisions (April-July 19/20) COVID impact on VMT (April-July 19/20)
Belfast -65% -48%
Birmingham -34% -47%
Cardiff -67% -55%
Edinburgh -68% -53%
Glasgow -62% -48%
London -52% -44%
Manchester -58% -50%


End of the first lockdown results in a rise in collisions but still below 2019 levels
As the country emerged from lockdown in the July to October period, all of the cities analyzed saw collisions rise compared with April to July, but these were still significantly below the same period in 2019.

Highlight stats:

  • Cardiff maintained the biggest decrease in collisions – minus 25% versus 2019)
  • Cardiff also saw the greatest decrease in VMT during this period – down 18% versus 2019
  • Birmingham came closest to its pre-COVID collision levels – minus 11% versus 2019, with VMT at minus 12% versus 2019
  • Glasgow VMT was closest to returning to its pre-COVID levels – down 3% versus 2019, with collision levels at minus 24% versus 2019.

London saw its collisions increase by 39% from April-July to August-October, but this was still well below 2019 levels (minus 13% vs 2019). Similarly, VMT dropped to 16% below pre-COVID levels.

City COVID effect on number of collisions (August-October 19/20) COVID impact on VMT (August-October 19/20)
Belfast -21% -11%
Birmingham -11% -12%
Cardiff -25% -18%
Edinburgh -20% -11%
Glasgow -24% -3%
London -13% -16%
Manchester -12% -16%


Looking beyond the UK
A look at London alongside other major Western European cities also resulted in some interesting insights:

City COVID effect on danger (Apr-Oct 19/20) VMT (Apr-Oct 19/20)
London -35% -32%
Madrid -64% -33%
Berlin -18% -20%
Paris -34% -18%
Milan -50% -52%


For more analysis of wider European trends, you can download COVID-19’s International Effect on Road Collisions, or visit 2020 Riskiest Roads for the complete global ranking.

The road ahead
As the UK continues to emerge from its second period of lockdown, guided by a new tiered system of restrictions, INRIX will continue to monitor the situation on the ground.

With COVID-19 continuing to disrupt transport across the UK, local authorities should factor real-time data into management strategies to both monitor and mitigate the impact of incidences of dangerous driving on roads.

For our latest updates, be sure to follow the INRIX blog as we continue to provide travel trend updates for the UK and Europe here.