Driving during UK lockdown - what the latest coronavirus guidance means for motorists in England

What you need to know about the latest rules for the road

Traffic has plummeted during the coronavirus lockdown
Traffic has plummeted during the coronavirus lockdown

Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on Sunday night, certain rules around lockdown have changed.

In his address to the country, Mr Johnson said tackling the coronavirus had come at "a colossal cost to our way of life" and he was now setting out a “road map for reopening society”.

The Prime Minister’s announcement changes how lockdown restrictions affect some aspects of people’s lives, including how much and how far they can travel. However, the rules and advice now differ around the UK, with separate guidelines for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Previous guidelines forbid all but the most essential journeys

Can I drive under new lockdown guidelines?

Previous UK-wide guidelines were that you should only drive for essential reasons. These included infrequent trips to get shopping, including medication; for medical reasons such as visiting a doctor or caring for a vulnerable person; to get to essential jobs where working from home was not possible. Police also said that short journeys to take exercise, where the driving time did not exceed the exercise time, were permissible.

From Monday, May 11, in England you can now drive to get to work if you cannot work from home, even if your job is not classified as “essential”. Mr Johnson has said that in England people who cannot work from home should be actively encouraged to return to work.

He said that these people should avoid public transport and encouraged them to use the car instead, or to walk or cycle.

In Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, authorities have said they will not yet relax the “stay at home” message or ease travel restrictions, meaning that drivers there should not drive unless it is absolutely necessary.

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Can I drive to exercise?

In England, from Wednesday, May 13, you will be able to drive to another location to take exercise “irrespective of distance” as so long as you respect social distancing guidance. Previous guidelines were that such journeys should be kept as short as possible and should not last longer than the exercise.

In Scotland and Wales, the guidance is still to avoid all unnecessary travel and to use nearby open spaces such as parks for exercise. The Scottish and Welsh governments have said exceptions will be made for anyone with specific health conditions or disabilities which require them to travel further to an “appropriate” location.

In Northern Ireland, you can now travel up to five kilometres (three miles) to reach somewhere to exercise.

Are the roads and motorways closed?

No, all roads and motorways remain open.

Are garages and petrol stations still open?

Yes. Garages are classified as an essential business and are allowed to remain open.

They will continue to offer services as required, with many developing social distancing or zero-contact methods of vehicle handover to protect staff and customers.

MOT testing is still available but all cars whose MOTs expired on or after March 30 have been granted an automatic six-month extension, with the legislation in effect until March 2021.

Petrol stations are also listed as essential businesses and remain open but many are encouraging customers to maintain social distancing by using pay-at-pump facilities wherever possible.