AA expects almost 18 million cars to join Christmas getaway with traffic warnings for the M25, M1 and M5
Almost 18 million cars are expected to hit the roads later this month with Christmas getaways sending the number of vehicles soaring to pre-pandemic levels.
The AA is warning of a 'bumper-to-bumper Christmas' when it comes to traffic, while Covid-related nervousness coupled with planned engineering works are also expected to push more people into using their cars instead of public transport.
December 23 and Christmas Eve are predicted to be the busiest days for travel with warnings of lengthy jams at traffic hotspots that are likely to bring Chris Rea's Driving Home for Christmas lyrics 'I got red lights all around' to life.
An estimated 17.75 million cars are expected to travel on those two days alone.
After Thursday, December 16, and Friday, December 17, the AA says it expects business-related travel to drop significantly until the New Year as a result of both the Christmas holidays and Plan B restrictions that will encourage more people to work from home.
But there is also a warning for Christmas shoppers planning to hop in their cars on Saturday, December 18 – with high streets, retail outlets and shopping centres expected to be packed as people use the last Saturday before December 25 to finish their present buying.
Motorists are being told to prepare for delays to journeys on some major stretches of motorway in particular, including the M25, M5 between Bristol and Weston-Super-Mare and the M6 around Birmingham. The AA has also issued warnings about the M1 north of Luton, which it says can often suffer congestion from incidents and breakdowns as can the M62 and M60 in the North West.
Edmund King, AA president, said providing no formal Government restrictions on travel or socialising are brought in, he expects the roads to be exceptionally busy this year.
He explained: “It’s a bumper-to-bumper Christmas this year as people want to make up for lost time. Providing there are no formal restrictions in travel or socialising, millions are ready to spend time with their friends and family.
“While the 23 December and Christmas Eve look set to be the busiest travelling days, the change in working practices with increased home working, means we could see a spread of traffic across these days rather than a chaotic evening rush."
Drivers planning to take to the roads, says Mr King, should plan ahead to avoid the potential for a breakdown such as checking tyres, fuel levels or EV range, oil levels and coolant. Supplies of warm clothes and extra food along with hi-viz jackets are also advisable.
Christmas Day is expected to be one of the quieter days for significant travel along with New Year's Day, says the AA, which is set to be the quietest day on the roads as people rest after a late night the evening before.
Mr King added: “New Year's Day will be the quietest day on the roads, which is probably a good thing, especially if drivers have been partying the previous evening. Drivers can still be breathalysed and lose their licence for driving over the limit the morning after. So remember if you are going to drive, don’t drink, and if you are going to drink, don’t drive.”