Traffic experts are predicting the busiest school holiday getaway for at least eight years this weekend as millions of motorists hit the road.
As English and Welsh schools break up, drivers are planning an estimated 18.8 million leisure journeys in the first weekend of the holidays, making it the busiest start to the season since the RAC began tracking journey figures in 2014.
Ahead of a frantic four days, drivers are being urged to check their routes and their vehicles to avoid delays and possible breakdowns that could get the holiday season off to a bad start.
Working with travel analysts Inrix, the RAC has predicted extra traffic will cause delays of up to an hour on the busiest roads, and that is before any breakdowns or accidents affect traffic flow.
Saturday is expected to be the busiest day, with around 4.6m journeys, although Friday and Sunday will each also see around 4.3m car journeys.
On Saturday, the roads will be busiest between 10am and 3pm while congestion is expected to be at its worst from 10am until around 6pm on Sunday and 7pm on Friday.
The RAC and Inrix are recommending drivers plan well ahead and start their journeys either very early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the inevitable queues, some of which are expected to form quickly.
Inrix data indicates that the M25 could see some of the worst jams, with stretches between Bromley and the Dartford Crossing, Maple Cross to the M3, and the M23 to the M40 among the worst affected.
Elsewhere, the A303 near Stonehenge, M4 between Cardiff and Newport and M5 south of Bristol are also likely to see queuing traffic throughout the weekend.
Although the travel restrictions seen in 2020 and 2021 have been lifted, the RAC is predicting that the current cost of living crisis could lead to many families remaining closer to home this summer. According to the latest fuel price figures, it costs £30 more to fill an average family car’s petrol tank than in July last year.
RAC Breakdown spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “The extreme heat that’s affecting much of the UK in the last few days might wane over the next few days, but we still expect the summer getaway to begin with a bang as a potentially record-breaking number of drivers take to the roads this coming weekend.
“We anticipate a ‘frantic Friday’ followed by a woeful weekend on major roads across the country, with traffic and congestion likely peaking on Saturday.”
Mr Dennis said that while some delays were unavoidable, drivers could reduce their chances of suffering a breakdown by carrying out some basic checks before setting off.
He said: “It’s a fact that a huge proportion of the estimated 300,000 breakdowns our patrols will attend in the coming six weeks are avoidable if drivers make sure they look over their vehicles before any long drive. A breakdown is so much less likely if a vehicle’s oil and coolant levels, as well as tyre pressure and tread depth, have all been checked before setting out.”
National Highways has also launched a campaign urging motorists to check their tyres before starting long journeys, highlighting that 20% of all breakdowns on its routes in 2021 were tyre-related.
National Highways Head of Road Safety, Jeremy Phillips, said: “We know that breaking down can be a very upsetting experience, nobody wants to start off their holiday stranded at the side of the road, next to fast moving traffic.
“So we are reminding drivers to check their vehicles, particularly the tyres, before setting off. Unsafe tyres put you and others at risk as well as running the risk of attracting a hefty fine and penalty points.”