Drivers will be making 28m separate Christmas getaway car journeys on major roads this year – but unlike in previous years, they plan on spreading their journeys across several days which could mean fewer of the usual jams, new RAC Traffic Watch data suggest.
While Christmas Eve is expected to see the most getaway journeys, with 3.8m planned, it could be Friday 23rd that ends up being the busiest day on the roads – as leisure travellers taking 3.5m trips battle with the last day of regular traffic before Christmas. Christmas Day is expected to see a similar level of getaway traffic, again totalling some 3.5m separate journeys.
Thanks to Christmas falling on a weekend for the first time in five years, drivers have got an opportunity to space out their journeys – potentially meaning there will be fewer jams that affect large parts of the road network shortly before the big day itself.
Unfortunately the cost of visiting family and friends is significantly more expensive this year than last. It currently costs an average of £63.44 to fill the tank of a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra, up over £6 on the 2015 cost. Diesel drivers are feeling the recent price increases slightly less acutely – it now costs £64.81 to fill up a family-sized car, up £5.56 on this time last year.
RAC Traffic Watch spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Unlike in recent years, we’ve got a significantly extended Christmas getaway this year. With Christmas Day on a Sunday, and with most schools having broken up yesterday (16 December), it means many more drivers this year have a chance to space out their Christmas getaway journeys – and that is exactly what our latest data is suggesting.
“The fact we have a lengthy ‘pre-Christmas stretch’ this year is not to say there won’t at times be heavy traffic on the road network through the week, perhaps peaking on the 23rd when many workers finish for Christmas and leisure and commuter traffic take to the roads together. But we’re hopeful things won’t be quite as pressured on our motorways and major A-roads this year as they have been before.
“The latest information from the Met Office suggests a fairly dull, mild and occasionally damp run-up to Christmas – we will be monitoring the forecast closely through next week but right now we’re not anticipating any particularly tricky driving conditions. But breakdowns tend to happen when drivers least expect them, so it pays to be prepared and take a few moments to make sure the family car is in best condition for a long drive.
“A handy acronym to remember is FORCES. If every motorist remembers to check fuel, oil, rubber, coolant, electrics and screenwash before setting out they have the best chance of avoiding an unscheduled stop at the side of the road – and the potential for a late start to Christmas.”