Big increase in road traffic over recent days

Business Insider SA
Picture: Sizwe sama Yende
  • Last week, South Africans did 40% of the trips they did before lockdown.
  • This is a dramatic 80% increase from the week before.
  • Tracker believes that the data suggests “a negative shift in compliance to lockdown rules”.
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There has been a sharp increase in activity on South African roads as the country’s lockdown period wears on.

Vehicle tracking company, Tracker, together with Lightstone, has analysed anonymised and aggregated data from client vehicles that shows a dramatic shift in driver habits during South Africa’s initial and extended lockdown periods.

According to the data, South Africans drastically reduced their driving activity during the initial period of lockdown - the first three days of lockdown saw a 75% decrease in vehicle activity.

But from 15 April, Tracker recorded a substantial increase in trips for commercial vehicles, passenger vehicles, taxis, and busses. 

The most notable increase came in the passenger vehicle category.

Between 15 and 17 April, drivers did 40% of the trips they did before lockdown - up from only 22% in the previous week. This is an increase of more than 80%.

The distance people drove on these days also increased, and there were more stops at petrol stations and shopping centres. On Thursday last week, there were almost double the number of stops recorded at filling stations and malls than on the Thursday prior.

“It’s feasible that people had bought enough to get them through the initial 21-day lockdown,” says Linda Reid, head of data for Lightstone. “However, with that period coming to an end, it’s possible that their supplies were running out, resulting in higher volumes of people needing to shop at the end of last week.”

It’s also likely that some of the sustained, increased movement over the subsequent days may have to do with minor changes in lockdown regulations.

Among the second-phase changes, essential service workers were permitted to get their cars repaired, and plumbers and electricians were allowed to return to work to do emergency repairs. Children of divorced parents were also allowed to move between two homes, and more call centres were opened.

But with these announcements made on the evening of 16 April, and much of the increase in activity starting the day before, Tracker believes that the data suggests “a negative shift in compliance to lockdown rules”.

“The spreading of the virus is more likely with increased movement and interaction,” says Michael du Preez, a Tracker South Africa executive. “We appeal to people to continue to adhere to government’s call to stay home and only go out when necessary, for your safety and the safety of your fellow citizens.”

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