Motoring groups have warned drivers to expect congestion and delays as the country winds down for Christmas.
This weekend is predicted to bring a spike in traffic and delays of up to four hours as people rush to complete last-minute shopping or set off around the country to visit friends and family.
The RAC’s Traffic Watch service estimates that Britons will make more than 11 million getaway trips between now and Christmas Day, with two almost two million journeys made on Christmas Eve alone.
However, Friday is expected to be the most congested day, with more than one million leisure travellers clashing with regular commuter traffic as businesses close for the holiday. Motoring experts are advising drivers to avoid travelling on so-called”Frantic Friday” if they can.
A poll of AA members found that 40 per cent plan to take longer journeys on Friday and traffic data firm Inrix is predicting hold-ups of up to four hours where traffic is at its worst.
“Things tend to get worse on the last working day before Christmas – this year 22 December – we strongly urge drivers planning long journeys to avoid this day if they possibly can”
Rod Dennis, RAC
Vince Crane, the AA’s patrol of the year, warned: “With Christmas falling on a Monday, many drivers may hope that journeys would be spread across the weekend – but it means more days of traffic as the getaway from work on Friday is followed by the last major shopping opportunity on Saturday and visits to friends and family on Sunday.”
He added: “On Friday, it’s likely to be very busy at peak times on the major routes. Check the traffic reports before you leave and try to travel when it’s quieter or, if you have no choice, consider an alternative route to beat the jams.
RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis added: “The roads are traditionally busy in the run-up to Christmas, especially when you have commuters, commercial and leisure traffic all competing for space.
“Things tend to get worse on the last working day before Christmas, with ‘Frantic Friday’ this year falling on the 22 December – we strongly urge drivers planning long journeys to avoid this day if they possibly can. We’re then expecting pre-Christmas leisure trips to peak on Christmas Eve, with getaway traffic combining with the inevitable dashes to the shops for last-minute Christmas presents.”
The roads are expected to be even busier following Christmas, with the RAC predicting more than five million journeys on Boxing Day as drivers head out to the sales or to visit friends and family.
Both the RAC and AA are advising drivers to be prepared for hold-ups and bad weather and pack their car accordingly.
“Anything can happen, so don’t forget to do the basic checks on your car before heading off to avoid a breakdown interrupting your Christmas plans. This includes topping up the windscreen wash and anti-freeze, checking your lights and adjusting tyre pressures for a full load if necessary,” commented Vince Crane.
“Along with the Christmas presents, make sure you pack the essentials for your trip including extra warm and waterproof layers, food, water, a torch, fully-charged mobile and an atlas or sat-nav in case of any unexpected diversions.”