DRIVERS will be making 11.5m separate festive getaway trips before Christmas Day this year which has led today, Friday, to be dubbed ‘Frantic Friday’ – the day when the last of the year’s commuter traffic clashes with people desperately trying to get to see family and friends.
New research by Traffic Watch shows pre-Christmas leisure traffic will peak on Christmas Eve when 1.87m separate getaway car journeys will be taken, but in reality today (Friday) is likely to be the most congested on the roads as commuter traffic mixes with an expected 1.25m leisure trips.
With the bank holidays falling on weekdays and schools breaking up for Christmas at different times across the UK, there should be an even spread of traffic in the run-up to the big day, averaging about 1.4m journeys per day. Leisure traffic is anticipated to then build to 1.56m journeys tomorrow, Saturday, rising to 1.87m journeys on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself.
The total pre-Christmas getaway traffic will, however, be eclipsed this year by the 17.5m leisure trips that will be taken between December 25 and New Year’s Day as drivers criss-cross the UK to visit friends and family this festive season. Congestion on some parts of the network is therefore inevitable, but with little commuter and commercial traffic the roads will generally be quieter.
The busiest day for leisure trips to see family and friends – and of course trips to the post-Christmas sales – is expected to be Boxing Day according to this year’s study of drivers’ plans, with 5.3m separate journeys planned.
Highways England’s customer service director Melanie Clarke said: “We’re doing everything we can to make journeys as smooth as possible this Christmas and that’s why we’re keeping 99% of the road network we manage free from roadworks. Over the past two years we’ve already added 190 lane miles of much-needed capacity and that will make life easier for those travelling around this month, as the festive countdown begins.”
Met Office senior press officer Grahame Madge added: “The secret to a successful and stress-free Christmas is planning and preparation. Just as you wouldn’t want to buy your presents in a Christmas Eve panic, it’s never sensible to leave planning your travel arrangements until the last minute either. Take time out to plan any trip, download the Met Office weather app or check our website and give your vehicle the once over. That way you’ll be setting off on a more relaxing journey, knowing that your car is safe and knowing what weather you can expect on your journey. Just don’t forget the presents!”