The amount of motor vehicle traffic on the roads fell 18.9% for the year ending September 2020 following coronavirus lockdown measures.
The fall on the same period in the previous year represents the largest drop since quarterly records began in 1994.
Car traffic specifically fell by 20.9% to 219.9 billion vehicle miles, while van and lorry traffic decreased by 11.4% and 10% respectively.
Traffic levels also dropped on each type of road, with motorways down 24.9%, A-roads down 18.7%, and minor roads down 15.9%.
Car journeys were affected more than vans and lorries, which is likely because professional drivers have continued to work throughout the pandemic. Meanwhile, motorways saw a bigger drop than smaller roads as motorists stuck to local journeys throughout the pandemic.
This data includes the six months following the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures being put in place, and initial analysis suggests this is the likeliest cause of the drop in traffic.
The Department for Transport says its research indicates that the amount of traffic on the road would have only increased by a small amount without the pandemic, meaning the real figures are down 19.2% on the originally projected totals.
The data also shows that traffic has returned to levels not seen for 20 years. Compared with the year-to-date figures from 2000, traffic was down 0.4% overall, and down almost 3% on motorways.