Access to a car has become more important to the majority of drivers (57%) due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey.
The RAC poll of 3,000 motorists indicated that 68% think a car is “essential” for carrying items such as shopping, up from 54% last year.
This could be due to the rise in click-and-collect services and people carrying out fewer but larger grocery shops.
Nearly six out of 10 drivers (59%) say they need their car for meeting friends and family who do not live nearby, compared with 45% in 2019.
The survey also demonstrates the scale of the challenge in encouraging people to switch from cars to public transport as the pandemic eases.
For the first time since 2002, fewer than half of drivers (43%) said they would use their cars less in the future if train and bus services were improved.
The RAC described the fall from 57% last year as “a seismic shift” reflecting “ongoing safety concerns of using potentially crowded public transport systems”.
RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Without a concerted effort from Government and local councils, the pandemic risks putting efforts to encourage drivers out of their cars for some trips back by years.
“As cities seek to improve air quality and make urban centres cleaner places, it’s clear that low-cost, efficient alternatives to the car need further thinking and much greater financial investment.
“Park-and-ride sites make a lot of sense and cater for the many people who are too far from regular public transport networks.
“Perhaps now is the time for the concept to evolve to encompass park and cycle, park and walk, or even park and scoot.
“A failure to invest in adequate alternatives for drivers keen on accessing town and city centres risks stifling the recovery of these areas as shopping and tourist destinations.”