Driving

Everything drivers need to know about the coronavirus pandemic.

Ciara Knight

With coronavirus continuing to dominate our lives at the moment, it’s only natural that drivers are concerned about how the virus impacts their driving, their cars and all things road-related.

We’ve put together a handy list of questions and answers to help set the record straight on some common things that our members have been concerned about when we’ve been chatting with them.

This is an ever-evolving list, so please continue to get in touch with us at hello@bymiles.co.uk or on our social channels with any questions you have and we’ll do our best to answer them. We’re going to keep updating this blog with new information as we have it.

This article was last updated at 17:00 on Monday 18th May, and is as accurate as we can make it with the information we’ve had available. We aim to keep it as up-to-date as possible, but briefings on COVID-19 measures are obviously changing daily. If in doubt, please be sure to check official Government advice here.

How do I keep my car (and car battery) healthy during lockdown?

In terms of keeping your car in good health, it’s always worth starting your car up once a week and allowing it to run for about 15 minutes to recharge the battery. Be sure to do so in well-ventilated space, ideally outdoors. Never leave your car's engine running in an enclosed space like a garage, as this can cause a deadly build-up of carbon monoxide gas.

Keeping the car’s fuel tank full is also a good idea as it will prevent condensation, which can cause problems if built up over time.

To prevent the brakes from seizing, release the parking brake and drive the car short distances forwards and backwards (kill two birds with the one stone by doing so while the engine is running to recharge the battery).

How do I to keep my car safe from criminals during lockdown?

Common sense applies here. Be sure to keep your car properly locked when it's not in use and store all valuables out of sight so that opportunists won't be tempted. Something as unremarkable as a gym bag left on the back seat can attract attention, so be smart.

If possible, park your car near your house so that it's visible to you. We've had an increase in vandalism claims over the past couple of weeks, presumably due to vandals having more spare time than usual and the police being overstretched at the moment, so don't assume that everyone is adhering to the Government's isolation advice in the same way that you are.

Now is the perfect time to root out your old steering wheel lock from the shed and make some use out of it if you're not going to be using the car for a while. Most importantly, don't leave your keys sitting on the hall table or near the front door, as criminals have been known to fish them out through the letterbox.

Is my MOT still going ahead during the coronavirus pandemic?

Car owners will be granted a 6-month exemption from MOT testing, meaning they can still travel to work if they need to, and can still drive to the shops for essentials.

This came into effect on 30th March, 2020. Cars still must be kept in a roadworthy condition, and garages will stay open for essential repair work. So it’s important to keep in mind that drivers can still be prosecuted if they’re driving unsafe vehicles.

If you can’t get an MOT that’s due because you’re in self-isolation, the Department for Transport is working to make sure that people will not be negatively affected as a result of things that are out of their control, so don’t panic.

Will being an NHS transport volunteer during the pandemic affect my car insurance?

Firstly, good on you. It’s an important time to be selfless and your efforts are greatly appreciated by all.

In terms of car insurance, it’s worth checking with your provider to ensure that you’re fully covered or if a change to your policy is required. All insurers are different, so there’s no one set rule for everyone.

If you’re a By Miles member and working as an NHS transport volunteer, no amendments to your policy are necessary. You do not need to contact us to update your documents or to extend your cover. Your daily charge is always capped at 150 miles a day, so you won’t be charged a penny more if you happen to go over it due to extra journeys.

Are garages still open during the coronavirus lockdown?

As per the Government, garages are still open for essential repair work, so if you need something fixed to keep your car roadworthy, that’s still an option.

As car garages are privately owned, opening hours will vary at the moment, so get in touch with your local garage for more information.

All Government advice is in place at garages as they fall under the category of public spaces, so be sure to keep your distance and use common sense (no hugging your mechanic after they salvage a punctured tyre!)

Where I work has changed because of coronavirus, do I need to tell my car insurance provider?

Depending on the specifics of your car insurance policy, you could be invalidating it by using your car for different tasks than you had previously listed, such as using it for commuting while services are reduced.

The Financial Conduct Authority has called on insurers to treat customers fairly during these difficult circumstances and has urged them to not impact claims processes for customers. As long as everyone plays fair, it should be okay.

If you have a By Miles policy, then you don’t need to tell us if you’re working from home or temporarily driving to work because you can’t use public transport.

Many insurers have put in place measures to help their members out if they’re struggling with payments. You should check their website FAQs, or give them a call.

If you’re a By Miles member, we may be able to delay the date that your payment is due. We don't charge interest while your payment is delayed, meaning you won't pay more than you would have done previously.

If you're an NHS or key worker who has recently started driving more, we may be able to offer you some assistance based on your circumstances. We're here to help, so get in touch using the live chat on your app, or give us a call on 0330 088 3838.

Do I still have to pay the London ULEZ and congestion charges during the coronavirus lockdown?

As of today (Monday 18th May), the suspension of all road user charges has ended. That means drivers must pay as normal for ULEZ and congestion charges from now on.

It's been proposed that the charges go up from £11.50 to £15 per day from Monday 22nd June and the hours will extend to 07:00 - 22:00, seven days a week.

To support care home employees, the NHS reimbursement scheme will be extended so carers that can apply to their employer to be reimbursed for journeys relating to coronavirus, including journeys to and from work.

If you're a By Miles member, you'll get ULEZ and Congestion Charge reminders from the app after you've driven through the zones, so you can avoid being stung with a late penalty charge.

The 24-hour access fee for Santander Cycles will continue to be waived for NHS workers, police officers and people working in social care. Codes are available through your employers, so be sure to ask.

Can I still make a claim on my car insurance while coronavirus continues to spread?

It should be business as usual, in that regard, but it depends who you have your insurance with. Most insurance companies should be sending out emails with information about how their services are affected (if at all). On the whole though, you should just be able to get in touch with your insurer as you would normally, and they will be able to assist you with any claims.

Repairs may take a little longer than usual at the moment, but you’re still covered and replacement cars are still available as car rental places are operating under business as usual.

If you’re a By Miles member, our claims line is still open 7-days a week, 24-hours a day on 0330 088 3838.

Can I still drive if I have coronavirus?

It's not a good idea to drive if you are suffering from symptoms of coronavirus.

There's a high chance that the symptoms will cause you to lose concentration, just like if you were using your mobile phone or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Symptoms like a fever, sneezing or a dry cough can impair your concentration and slow down your reaction time considerably, as can some medicines being taken for relief. Much like driving with any illness, these factors increase your chances of being hit with fines or penalty points for dangerous driving.

Although the roads are emptier than usual at the moment, normal rules still apply and traffic cameras are in operation. The best advice is to stay at home and avoid driving if you have coronavirus.

Can someone else drive my car while I’m self-isolating during the coronavirus lockdown?

Normal rules apply for this one, so you’ll need to add them to your policy.

If they have ‘drive other cars’ on their own insurance, then they’ll be covered to drive your car, but on a ‘third-party only’ basis.

The best option for temporarily insuring someone else on your car is to use temporary cover - there are many different providers of this.

If you’ve got a By Miles policy, you can add a close relative to your insurance policy all by yourself using our app. They need to be aged 25-78 and have had a full UK licence for 2 years. There’s no administration fee for the first three changes, but your fixed annual cost and per-mile rate may change as a result of any amendments - more info here.

Are petrol stations still open during the coronavirus lockdown?

Yes. As they provide essential services, petrol stations will continue to stay open, although it’s worth remembering that you should only be driving if it’s completely unavoidable.

When using the petrol pump, it’s advised to wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. At the moment, there are no signs to suggest that there will be a shortage of petrol expected, so there’s no need to panic buy. Carry on as normal.

Can I get car essentials like replacement bulbs and wiper blades during the coronavirus pandemic?

Halfords has reopened some of its stores as their services fall under the ‘essential’ category, so you’ll be covered if you need any car or bike-related essentials. Just be sure to remember to keep the recommended two metre distance from other shoppers, if a trip to Halfords is absolutely essential.

They’re also offering a free car health check to all NHS frontline workers during the pandemic. The checks include top-up tyre inflation, screen wash, oil levels and lights to keep workers’ cars on the road. To redeem the offer, simply show your NHS staff ID card at a Halfords or Autocentre Garage, where the safety check will be booked in and carried out.

Is my driving test or theory test cancelled because of coronavirus?

Practical driving tests have been suspended for up to 3 months. You’ll get an email telling you that your test has been rebooked and it should arrive around 2 weeks before your original test date. Your new test date will likely be around 3 months after your original date.

Critical workers can apply for an emergency test if your work is essential for the coronavirus response. The full details of the criteria are available here.

Theory tests are also suspended until 31st May. You’ll get an email to tell you that your test has been cancelled, and be given a full refund. Then you’ll need to book a new test after that date. You can book a driving theory test from 1st June onwards here.

What if my car breaks down during the coronavirus lockdown?

We looked at the most popular roadside assistance providers (The AA, RAC, Green Flag) and their services are still available for those making essential journeys, along with most others. They’re following Government guidelines and practicing social distancing to keep you and themselves safe.

If you’ve come in contact with the virus or have symptoms, it’s important to let them know as soon as you call, so that they can take extra precautions when helping you. Don’t worry, they’ll still help if you’re ill.

If I’m not using my car during the pandemic, what should I do?

It’s a legal requirement to have valid car insurance unless you register your car off the road and apply for a SORN. If you plan on leaving your car unused for quite a while, it’s worth contacting your car insurance provider to figure out the best option for you.

If you are with another insurer, and you don’t mind declaring your car SORN, you might be able to suspend your car insurance with them for a bit and get a refund. Just beware that it won’t be covered against fire or theft if you do this.

With a By Miles policy, you’re actually rewarded for driving less, so it’s not a bad thing to see your car sitting in the driveway each day. The less you drive, the less you pay, the more you save.

Should I disinfect my car to prevent the spread of coronavirus?

If you have to make an unavoidable journey in your car, it’s no harm to make sure that you’re doing so in a relatively sterile environment. Firstly, ensure that you’re traveling with someone who hasn’t come in contact with the virus, nor do they have any symptoms.

Disinfect the car, paying particular attention to the steering wheel, handbrake, gearstick, door handles, radio buttons, window buttons, indicators and all other controls that you’d usually touch. Regular household cleaning products will do the trick, as long as they’ve got a 70% alcohol solution in them. Before using any cleaning product inside your car, it’s worth testing it in a small area first, to make sure it doesn’t discolour your car’s interior. Alcohol can be used on upholstery and soft surfaces, just be sure not to completely soak them.

On the outside of the car, give your door handles, door frame and boot handle a thorough clean as well, using a micro-fibre cloth or something soft that won’t scratch the car. Use common sense to identify areas that you or other people have touched inside and outside the car, and you can’t go wrong.

What is By Miles doing about coronavirus?

As we’re part of the Association of British Insurers, we have made an official pledge to:

  • Support those who need to make a claim.
  • Support those who are working from home.
  • Support those who cannot work from home.
  • Support those who use their cars to help communities.
  • Support our key workers.

If you’ve got questions about any of these, just get in touch using our live chat on our website or give us a call on 0330 088 3838.

We’ve got you covered (provided you're actually covered with us), now and always.

Stay safe and stay apart!

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