The further through lockdown the UK went, the further out of the other side some people started to think.
There has been a lot of talk about ‘building back better’, harnessing a desire for positive change to come out of a situation that has been incredibly challenging. One of the most startling images that circulated in the media early on in lockdown was of the Himalayas; unveiled from the air pollution that usually hides them. It is undeniable that there have been environmental benefits to lockdown.
Many drivers are committed to trying to make long-term behaviour changes to ensure these benefits are cemented. We recently surveyed around 20,000 AA members and half said they would walk more and 40% said they intend to drive less. Overall, four in five said they would take some action to reduce their impact on air quality. As well as improving air quality, greater levels of walking and cycling could ease congestion and improve health.
The recent news that the government is considering a £6,000 scrappage grant for switching to an electric car is also a potential sign of positivity on the horizon. The scheme would need to be broader than EVs due to supply issues and should cover hybrids and other low carbon vehicles. It should also be supported with investment in our charging network and in gigafactories, so batteries could be developed, built and recycled in the UK to keep our carbon footprint down.
Positive thinking aside, it is going to take a while for our industry to recover from COVID-19. The financial and emotional hardship many have suffered is not something that can be easily erased. But, it would be a missed opportunity if we were not able to harness some of the goodwill towards change to help bring our industry back stronger, and better equipped to deliver a service to a nation more in touch with the environment than before.
I hope the driver training industry will also start to benefit from greater acceptance and adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles prompted by the appetite for change among many drivers. I am sure there is huge potential among learner drivers who would welcome the chance to learn in a car that does not have a combustion engine. And, as we start to edge ourselves back to normality, I hope that we can keep these thoughts of a brighter future front of mind.
Edmund King OBE is best known for media appearances on the subject of motoring and transport policy. He is president of the Automobile Association and a visiting professor of transport at Newcastle University.
Source: ADI News
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