A1) At the end of December 2016, there were 37.3 million vehicles licensed for use on the roads in Great Britain, of which 30.9 million were cars. In the year to December 2016, the stock of licensed vehicles increased by 2.2 per cent. This is the fifth consecutive quarter that year-on-year increases have exceeded 2 per cent. This also occurred in two quarters of 2014 but had not previously been seen since 2005.
The total number of licensed vehicles has increased in every year since the end of the Second World War except 1991. From 1995 to 2007, the annual growth in licensed vehicles averaged 690,000 per year, although from the mid-2000s it had already begun to slow somewhat. Following the recession of 2008-9 it slowed further, but did not stop, averaging 170,000 a year between 2007 and 2012. Since 2012, the average growth has been 680,000 per year.
Historical details about the number of licensed vehicles can be viewed in table VEH0101.
The number of vans on Britain’s roads has been rising more than 2.5 times quicker than cars. Every tenth vehicle on the road is now a light commercial vehicle (LCV).
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of vans increased by 29 per cent to 3.3 million. Over the same period the number of cars rose by 11 per cent to 28.7 million whilst the number of lorries (Heavy Goods Vehicles or HGVs) on British roads fell by 5 per cent to 460,000.
This trend has continued in recent years. However, the number of newly registered vans stabilised in 2016 (up 1.0 per cent on 2015) following increases of over 10 per cent in each of the previous three years.
A4) At the end of December 2016, about 41 per cent of privately registered cars were registered with a female keeper. The number of female registered keepers of cars has increased by 66 per cent since 1996, compared with an increase of only 23 per cent in male keepers.
The RAC Foundation has also produced a Fact Sheet entitled Facts on Parking which contains a wealth of information on parking related matters.
A6) In all areas, 12 per cent of household vehicles are parked in a garage overnight; 61 per cent are parked on private property (but not garaged); 25 per cent are parked on the street; and 3 per cent are parked in other places.
The proportion of household vehicles parked overnight on private property but not garaged is highest in rural areas (72 per cent) and generally declines as settlement size increases, down to 55 per cent in urban conurbations.
NOTE: This issue was not explored in the National Travel Survey: England 2015 and will next be up-dated in summer 2017.
A9) The commercial fleet and company car market is a primary driver of first registrations. In 2016, 56 per cent of all car first registrations were made by companies. However, the proportion of company registered cars in the whole of the licensed car stock was much lower, at only 9.0 per cent. This indicates that cars tend to move quite swiftly from the company market to the private market.
Back to top
This is the highest number ever of new car registrations, exceeding the last record year in 2015 when 2,633,503 new cars were registered.
A11) In 2016, 105,786 cars were sold to businesses (companies that operate up to 24 vehicles) - a fall of 1.2 per cent from 107,121 in 2015; 1,380,750 cars were sold to fleets (companies that operate fleets of 25 or more vehicles) - a rise of 4.8 per cent from 1,317,570 in 2015; and 1,206,250 cars were sold to private buyers - a fall of 0.2 per cent from from 1,208,812 in 2015.
A record number of cars – representing 78.8 per cent of total production – were for export, with 1,354,216 units leaving the UK, up 10.3 per cent on 2015 levels.
A14) In March 2016, the total number of driving licences registered with DVLA was 46,328,129. Of these, 38,558,731 were Full Driving Entitlement Licences and 7,769,398 were Provisional Entitlement Licences. These figures are for the whole of Great Britain.
It should be stressed that neither DVLA or DfT would recommend that users rely on this data being a true reflection of the number of active driving licence holders in Great Britain as the DVLA data includes details of people who have died, emigrated etc and who have not been removed from the DVLA database.
Source: Driving Licence Data
More robust estimates of active driving licence holders are available from the National Travel Survey. Latest estimates show that 74 per cent of all adults aged 17 and over in England (an estimated 32 million people) held a full car driving licence in 2015. In 1975/76, the proportion of adults with a licence in England was 48 per cent (an estimated 19.4 million people).
Of the 32 million people holding a full car driving licence in England, 17 million are men and 15 million women. Whilst, over the long term, licence holding among both men and women has increased, the rate of increase has been much greater for women. In 1975/76, 69 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women had a driving licence. In 2015, 80 per cent of men and 68 per cent of women had a licence.
A15) The proportion of young adults (aged 17 -20) in England with a full driving licence has decreased since the early 1990s when driving licence holding for this age group was at its highest. However, the level does fluctuate year-on-year. In 1995/97, 44 per cent of those aged 17 - 20 held a full licence, compared with a low of 27 per cent in 2004. In 2015, 33 per cent of those aged 17 - 20 held a full licence.
In 2015, the number of young men with a full driving licence fell to 33 per cent from 34 per cent in 2014 whilst the number of young women with a full driving licence increased to 32 per cent from 25 per cent in 2014.
A16) There has been a large increase in the number of older people in England holding a full driving licence. Between 1995/1997 and 2015 the proportion of people aged 70+ holding a licence increased from 39 per cent to 64 per cent.
The increase among older women is particularly notable: 73 per cent of women aged 60-69 and 50 per cent aged 70+ held a licence in 2015 compared with 46 per cent and 22 per cent in 1995/97 respectively. This is due to aging of existing licence holders rather than large numbers of newly qualified drivers in older age groups.
Source: RAC Foundation analysis of DVLA data.
A RAC Foundation analysis of the government’s employment database found that of the 847,000 vacancies available in Great Britain in July 2015, 131,000 (15.4 per cent) stated that a vehicle or licence was necessary for the post.
Another 7,700 (1 per cent) of the jobs on the list from the Department for Work and Pensions said that a vehicle or licence would be beneficial or practical.
In 2015, 25 per cent of households in England did not have access to a car or van. This figure fell from 38 per cent in 1985/86 to 25 per cent in 2004. It has remained around this level since then.
The proportion of households with two or more cars or vans has increased from 17 per cent in 1985/1986, to 26 per cent in 1995/97 and to 33 per cent in 2015. Since 2000, there have been more households with two or more cars or vans than households with no car or van.
A21) Research carried out by the RAC Foundation (based on 2011 Census data) shows that of the 348 English and Welsh local authorities, the East Dorset District Council area has the highest number of cars and vans per head of population.
For every thousand people - men, women and children - living in East Dorset, there are 694 cars. This compares with an average of 487 cars and vans per thousand people as a whole. By contrast, Hackney has the fewest at 170 cars and vans per thousand people.
A22) The RAC Foundation's report entitled “The Car in British Society” showed that the dominance of the car as a mode of transport in the early years of the 21st Century is absolute and that policy makers must recognise this fact as they introduce measures to cut traffic and hence ease congestion and fight climate change.
The car continues to dominate most people’s daily travel. Around two thirds of trips are made by car, either as a driver or passenger, and the car is also the most common mode for distance travelled, accounting for 78 per cent of the total distance travelled in 2015.
However, since the mid-2000s, there have been fewer car trips, despite the proportion of households with car access remaining broadly unchanged. Over this period, average distance travelled by car has also fallen; this is explained largely by the fall in trips, with average trip length by car remaining fairly stable.
Car use (both as driver and passenger) accounts for only 8 per cent of the trips under half a mile in length but rises to 76 per cent of all trips in the 2 – 3 mile band and 80 per cent of trips longer than five miles in length; above one mile, more than half of all trips are by car.
Source: The Car in British Society
The Commission for Integrated Transport noted in its “Medium-length Trip Patterns” report that 42 per cent of car mileage was driven on medium-length car trips (defined as 5 – 25 miles).
In rural areas, nearly three quarters (73.4 per cent) of workers travel by car (whether as driver or passenger). This method of travel also dominates the commute in urban areas (outside of London) with 67.1 per cent of people either driving themselves or catching a lift. Even amongst Londoners, the car is the most popular single mode of travel, used by 29.8 per cent of workers.
The average length of a commuter trip by car/van varies little across English regions and Wales at about ten miles. It is highest in the South East (11.2 miles) and lowest in London (8.6 miles).
Source: The Car and the Commute
A24) The estimated average annual mileage per car in England has decreased as the number of cars per household has risen, falling from around 9,200 miles in 2002 to 7,900 miles in 2015. This is due to falls in business and private mileage. Commuting mileage has remained relatively stable, varying between 2,500 and 2,900 miles per year whilst business mileage has halved over this period
There are different trends depending on if the car is company or privately owned. Company cars have an annual mileage more than double that of private cars (18,300 compared to 7,500).
The estimated average annual mileage was higher for diesel cars than petrol cars, at 10,700 miles and 6,500 miles respectively in 2015.
Since 1949 motor vehicle traffic has increased more than ten-fold from 28.9 to 323.7 billion vehicle miles, largely driven by steady growth in car traffic. However, over the last 20 years there has been a decline in the rate of traffic growth and between 2007 and 2010, motor vehicle traffic fell for three consecutive years. This was followed by stability, then a resumption of growth to the 2016 record level.
Latest provisional estimates show that motor vehicle traffic was at a record high in the year ending March 2017. The provisional figure, of 324.3 billion vehicle miles travelled on Great Britain’s roads in the year ending March 2017, was 1.7 per cent higher than the previous year. This is a record level, 3.2 per cent higher than the pre-recession peak in the year ending September 2007. Rolling annual motor vehicle traffic has now increased each quarter in succession for four years.
Compared to the previous year, in the year ending March 2017 car traffic increased by 1.4 per cent to a record 252.9 billion vehicle miles, 4.7 billion more vehicle miles travelled than the pre-recession peak in the year ending September 2007; van traffic continued to rise, increasing by 4.5 per cent to a new peak of 49.6 billion vehicle miles; lorry traffic fell by 0.8 per cent to 16.6 billion vehicle miles.
A26) Five scenarios were used in the Department of Transport’s latest forecasts to capture the uncertainty in forecasting. In all the scenarios, national traffic is forecast to increase but the size of that growth varies, depending on the number and types of journeys that people make, the effect of rising incomes on car ownership and car use, and future trends in income growth and fuel prices - three key uncertainties identified for future road demand. The range of the forecasts is for 19 per cent to 55 per cent growth between 2010 and 2040.
The growth in national traffic levels is predominately driven by the projected growth in population levels. Average distance travelled per person by car is forecast to grow under most scenarios - as rising incomes and falling costs result in more trips being taken by car. However, in one of the scenarios average car mileage per person is forecast to fall by 7 per cent and only population growth explains the growth in traffic. In the other scenarios, population is just one factor in the overall growth.
The growth in national traffic levels masks much more variation across area, road and vehicle types. While traffic growth may continue to be strong nationally, there is a different picture locally. Growth is expected to be particularly strong on the Strategic Road Network - between 29 per cent to 60 per cent from 2010 to 2040 while it is 2 per cent to 51 per cent on other principal roads and 10 per cent to 54 per cent on minor roads. While in most scenarios, traffic is expected to grow strongly on local roads and in urban areas and cities, the lower end of the forecasts represents an outcome where the recent fall in trips continues over the next 30 years.
Source: Road Traffic Forecasts 2015
A27) Details of the plans to improve the Strategic Road Network can be viewed here.
A28) The total road length in Great Britain in 2016 was estimated to be 246,500 miles. Compared to previous years, total road length in Great Britain in 2016 was 600 miles greater than in 2015, an increase of 0.3 per cent and 6,000 miles greater than in 1996, an increase of 2.5 per cent.
The length of motorways in Great Britain in 2016 was estimated to be 2,300 miles. "A" roads in Great Britain accounted for 29,100 miles of road in 2016. These major roads make up 12.7 per cent of total road length.
The majority of road lengths in Great Britain is made up of minor roads, with these roads accounting for 215,100 miles in 2016 (18,800 miles of "B" roads and 196,300 miles of "C" and "U" roads). These minor roads make up 87.3 per cent of the total road length.
Within England, the regions with the largest amount of road length were the South West, which had 31,200 thousand miles, and the South East, with 29,900 thousand miles.
A30) Almost 4,600 miles of British roads have no 2G mobile phone coverage from any network provider meaning drivers could not call for help in the case of a breakdown, accident or emergency. (A 2G signal is the minimum needed to make phone calls and send text messages)
The stretches of road - measuring 4,561 miles in total – represent 2 per cent of the length of Britain’s road network and are to be found in 49 separate local authority areas.
A further 28,975 miles of road (12 per cent) have only partial 2G coverage meaning there are many areas where some but not all phones will receive a signal depending on the service provider.
An additional 111,679 miles of road (45 per cent) have only partial 3G coverage and when it comes to 4G signals, more than half (56 per cent) of the road network has no coverage and more than a quarter (27 per cent) has only partial coverage.
Source: RAC Foundation
A31) In 2016, 67.8 billion vehicle miles was carried on motorways; 93.8 billion vehicle miles on rural "A" roads; 50.0 billion vehicle miles on urban "A" roads; 45.5 billion vehicle miles on rural minor roads; and 66.4 billion vehicle miles on urban minor roads.
Between 2015 and 2016, motor vehicle traffic increased on all road types. Traffic on motorways, rural ‘A’ roads and rural minor roads grew by 2.0 per cent, 2.8 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively, to reach new all-time highs. Traffic on urban ‘A’ and urban minor roads grew by 0.7 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively, but traffic on both road types remains below the peak levels seen in the mid-2000s.
Traffic volumes are not proportionate to road lengths. Although motorways and “A” roads account for only 13 per cent of total road length, they carried 65 per cent of all road traffic in 2016. On an average day in 2016, 87 times more vehicles travelled along a typical stretch of motorway than a typical stretch of rural minor road (‘B’ roads, ‘C’ roads, and unclassified roads).
A32) Smart motorways use a range of new technology to vary speed limits in response to driving conditions and make the hard shoulder available to traffic. This could be permanently or at particularly busy times of the day. They are managed by the Highways Agency's regional control centres and use CCTV so that Highways Agency traffic officers can be deployed to incidents if they occur and help to keep traffic moving.
Further information on smart motorways, and how they should be used, can be viewed here.
A33) Car and taxi traffic accounted for 78 per cent of all traffic in 2016, with light van and heavy goods vehicle traffic accounting for 15 per cent and 5 per cent respectively. Motorcycles/scooters and buses/coaches accounted for 0.9 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively.
Compared with 2015, car and taxi traffic in Great Britain increased by 2.0 per cent, to 252.6 billion vehicle miles in 2016. This is a new high, with the last two years exceeding the previous peak recorded before the recent recession. Van traffic grew 4.7 per cent between 2015 and 2016 to reach a record high of 49.1 billion vehicle miles; the fastest growth in percentage terms of any motor vehicle type.
In 2016, lorries travelled 16.6 billion vehicle miles, a similar distance to 2015. The 2016 figure remains around 9 per cent below the record level seen in 2007. Motorcycles and scooters travelled 1.9 per cent further in 2016 compared to the previous year, although motorcycle traffic has declined over the last 10 years, from a peak in the mid-2000s. Bus and coach traffic fell by 7.7 per cent between 2015 and 2016 - the largest decrease of any vehicle type. Over the last decade, bus and coach traffic has fallen by around one-quarter.
A35) Motor vehicle flow statistics give an indication of how busy roads in Great Britain are rather than volume of miles travelled on the road network. They are presented as the average number of vehicles per day per mile of road.
Motorways continue to have the highest average traffic flow in 2016 with 81.7 thousand vehicles for each mile of motorway per day. The average traffic flow on urban "A" roads was 19.8 thousand vehicles for each mile of urban "A" road per day and traffic flows on rural "A" roads were 11.6 thousand vehicles for each mile of rural "A" road per day.
The average traffic flow on urban minor roads was 2.2 thousand vehicles for each mile of urban minor roads per day and traffic flows on rural minor roads were 0.9 thousand vehicles for each mile of rural minor road per day.
A37) The local authority with the highest traffic level is Hampshire with 9.78 billion vehicle miles. Hampshire is followed by Kent (9.45 billion vehicle miles) and Essex (9.30 billion vehicle miles).
A38) In 2015, the average free flow speed of cars was 68 mph on motorways and 48 mph on national speed limit single carriageways. Vans were observed to have almost identical average free flow speeds to cars on these road types, with values of 69 mph and 48 mph respectively. Cars and vans both had an average free flow speed of 31 mph on roads with a speed limit of 30 mph. For all vehicle types on 20 mph roads, the average free flow speed was above the speed limit in 2015, with the highest being cars and vans at 25 mph.
On motorways, 46 per cent of both cars and vans exceeded the speed limit (70 mph). 11 per cent of cars and 12 per cent of vans exceeded the speed limit by 10 mph or more. Compliance with the speed limit on motorways by articulated HGVs in 2015 was very high, with 99 per cent of vehicles not exceeding the speed limit.
The percentage of cars exceeding the speed limit on motorways in 2015 was greatest between 10pm and midnight at 56 per cent. The time period with the lowest proportion of cars exceeding the speed limit was 7am to 8am at 35 per cent.
Across all road types, national speed limit single carriageways had the highest level of speed limit compliance for cars in 2015 with 92 per cent of vehicles not exceeding the speed limit (60 mph). For other classes of vehicles, compliance with speed limits is lower with 70 per cent of buses and coaches, 75 per cent of rigid HGVs and 84 per cent of articulated HGVs adhering to the speed limit.
In 2015, 52 per cent of cars and 56 per cent of vans exceeded the speed limit on 30mph roads. For the larger-sized vehicle types, there were also high levels of speed limit exceedance, with 52 per cent of rigid HGVs, 44 per cent of articulated HGVs and 34 per cent of buses and coaches exceeding the speed limit. Across all vehicle types, 20 mph roads had the highest level of speed limit non-compliance in 2015. This ranged from 65 per cent for buses and coaches, to 84 per cent for cars.
A39) In 2015 (the latest year for which figures are available), 0.4 per cent of all traffic on British roads was estimated to be accounted for by foreign registered vehicles. HGV traffic has the highest proportion of foreign registered vehicles. In 2015, 4.8 per cent of HGV traffic was estimated to be foreign registered, an increase of 1.5 per cent compared to 2013, the largest increase of any vehicle type.
A40) Highways England is a government-owned company responsible for the operation, maintenance and improvement of England's motorways and major A roads. This is the strategic network of roads used to move people and freight around the country.
A map of the Highways England network can be found here.
Other roads are managed by local authorities.
A41) Drivers made at least 31,483 claims against councils across Great Britain for damage caused to their vehicles by potholes in 2015/16. (This figure is based on responses from 204 (out of a total of 207) local highways authorities in England, Scotland and Wales which responded to FOI requests by the RAC Foundation).
This compares with the previous financial year when drivers made 28,971 claims.
The total value of successful claims was £1.784 million. However, councils refused the bulk of claims, agreeing to pay out in just 27 per cent of cases (up from 25 per cent in 2014/15). This average does, however, mask huge differences between councils. For example, while Bolton, Brent and Herefordshire paid out in 100 per cent of cases, a number of councils paid out nothing at all.
The average settlement amount for a successful claim £306 in 2015/16, up from £294 in 2014/15.
Source: RAC Foundation
A42) The total amount paid out in compensation by local authorities in England and Wales in 2016/17 for damage to persons or vehicles as a result of poor road condition was £6.0 million. The associated staff costs spent processing claims totalled £3.3 million. The total estimated cost for road user compensation claims is therefore £9.3 million (a substantial decrease from the total cost of £28.5 million in 2015/16).
The amount of time and money spent settling claims has seen a large reduction as councils and their legal advisors become better at challenging potentially dishonest claims.
A43) 1.748 million potholes were filled in across England and Wales in 2016/17 (compared to the previous year's figure of 2.2 million). The total cost of filling in these potholes is estimated at £102.3 million, a decrease on the previous year's figure of £118.4 million and the lowest figure reported since ALARM 2012.
The Pothole Action Fund will give local authorities in England £50 million a year, over the next 5 years, to help them to repair more than 4 million potholes by 2020/21. Funding is calculated according to the size of the local road network in the area.
A44) If you want to report a pothole you can go straight to the authority responsible for the road (most now have an electronic or web-based system available to the public to report potholes and highway faults).
Even if adequate funding and resources were in place to get roads back into a reasonable condition, it is estimated that to clear the maintenance backlog will take 13 years in England (excluding London), 10 years in London and 9 years in Wales.
Local authorities' estimate the one-time "catch-up" cost to bring their road networks upto scratch is £12.06 billion.
A46) Data collected from 199 of the 207 local highway authorities in England, Scotland and Wales and analysed by the RAC Foundation shows that 3,203 structures over 1.5m in span are not fit to carry the heaviest vehicles now seen on our roads, including lorries of up to 44 tonnes. These bridges represent 4.4 per cent (about 1 in 23) of the roughly 72,000 bridges to be found on the local road network.
Some of the bridges will be substandard because they were built to earlier design standards, whilst others will have deteriorated through age and use. Many of these bridges have weight restrictions. Others will be under programmes of increased monitoring or even managed decline.
The number of substandard bridges is 35 per cent greater than that estimated by the RAC Foundation to have been substandard two years earlier.
Source: RAC Foundation
A47) The Blue Badge Scheme is designed to assist people with severe mobility problems, registered blind people and people who drive a motor vehicle regularly and have a severe disability in both arms, making it very difficult or impossible to operate parking meters, to park close to where they need to go. An information leaflet about the Scheme can be viewed here.
You can apply for, or re-new, a Blue Badge here.
A48) There were 2.38 million valid Blue Badges on issue in England at 31 March 2016, a decrease of 0.7 per cent (16,000 badges) when compared with the previous year. This decrease continues the declining trend in the number of badges held with an overall decrease of 9.8 per cent since 2011.
On 31 March 2016, 4.3 per cent of the population in England held a valid Blue Badge, a decrease from 4.4 per cent compared to the previous year. In 2010, the proportion was 5.0 per cent.