If you’re planning a getaway this Christmas, brace yourself for potential traffic delays, as the RAC has warned drivers to expect the busiest festive period in five years.

A study, carried out by the RAC and INRIX, found there will be an estimated 27m cars on the road between today (17th December) and Christmas Eve, with 4.1m journeys anticipated to take place each day next week. This will culminate in 5.3m occurring on Christmas Eve – or ‘Frantic Festive Friday’, as it has been named by the RAC.

To beat the rush, drivers are being advised to either try setting off early or set off after dark.

Figures suggest motorists are looking to make up for the Covid travel restrictions that were in place last year, but one in 10 are still planning to completely avoid travelling by car over the festive period.

The RAC and transportation specialists INRIX are both anticipating less pre-Christmas congestion than would be seen in a usual non-Covid year, thanks to the ‘work from home’ guidance, but there are still seat to delays on numerous roads. The worst hit road is expected to be on Thursday afternoon on the M25 between Gatwick and the junction for the M40.

When it comes to the Christmas period itself, RAC research suggests Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Bank Holiday Monday will all be busier than they typically are too. The study has suggested there will be as many as 4.5m journeys by car each day to see friends and family, a big increase from the average of 3.5m seen since 2015.

RAC Breakdown spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “Despite the increasing prevalence of the Omicron Covid variant, our research shows that the vast majority of drivers are still determined to do Christmas properly this year – in sharp contrast to 12 months ago. We’re expecting the biggest Christmas getaway for five years, including a ‘Frantic Festive Friday’ on Christmas Eve. But with overall traffic volumes in the run-up to the big day set to be down slightly on normal given the current ‘work from home’ guidance, there’s reason to hope there won’t be too many queues as millions get away to see friends and family.

“As well as adding to the traffic jams, just a single breakdown has the potential to ruin Christmas which is why we’re urging drivers to make sure their vehicles are ‘road ready’ before they set out. Spending a few minutes checking that tyres are in good condition and are properly inflated, and ensuring oil, coolant and screenwash levels are all correct can dramatically reduce the chances of running into problems – as our patrols will testify, it’s always time well spent.”

“Our figures this year also point to more drivers using the roads between Christmas Day and New Year for leisure trips than normal – perhaps to make up for the fact that last Christmas was such a write-off for so many people. Popular days for travel are often busy days for breakdowns, so following our advice to avoid a breakdown in the first place is arguably more important than ever this year. But, for anyone who still runs into trouble, our expert local patrols will be working incredibly hard throughout the festive period to keep them moving.” 

Image courtesy of N-Photo Magazine

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