Christmas travel advice 2015

Friday (18 December) busiest day for traffic this holiday period

Friday (18 December) busiest day for traffic this holiday period

Friday (18 December) busiest day for traffic this holiday period

This Friday (18 December) will be the busiest on the roads as Christmas traffic combines with regular commuter traffic, says AA Roadwatch powered by INRIX.

A recent AA-Populus poll of 29,568 AA members found that 45% expect to drive over 20 miles on Friday – equating to around 14 million cars. Traffic delays are expected to peak around 4pm on Friday, according to INRIX, when journey times could triple on some stretches of motorway, including the M25, M5 and M4.

Traffic will also be very busy at times on Saturday (19 December) and from Monday to Wednesday (21-23 December) with around 40% of respondents driving over 20 miles.

  • Friday (18 December) busiest day for traffic this holiday period
  • Around 14 million cars travelling over 20 miles on Friday
  • Shopping frenzy this Saturday (19 December)
  • Live traffic updates via online AA Roadwatch or AA app
  • Free AA app also lets AA members locate cheapest fuel and available parking spaces
  • Unlimited call-outs with AA breakdown cover to help keep drivers on the move

Heaviest traffic

According to INRIX, traffic information provider to AA Roadwatch, the heaviest traffic can be expected on the following stretches:

M25 - both ways J7 (Reigate) to J16 (M40)
A4 - Westbound (Earl's Court) to M4 J11 (Reading)
M5 - Southbound J13 (Stroud) to J19 (Gordano)
M60 - both ways J8 (Carrington) to M62 J20 (Rochdale)
M4 - both ways J24 (Coldra) to J32 (Coryton)
M6 - northbound J11a (M6 Toll) to J19 (Knutsford)
M25 - Anti-clockwise J4 (Orpington) to Dartford Crossing
M3 - Southbound J2 (M25) to J8 (A303)
M1 - Northbound J10A (Luton Airport) to J14 (Milton Keynes)
M5 - both ways J3 (A456) to M6 J10a (M54)
M25 - Clockwise J27 (M11) to Dartford Crossing
M56 - Eastbound J9 (M6) to the M60
M1 - Northbound J32 (M18) to J42 (M62)
M74 - Southbound J1/M8 and J7 (Larkhall)
M1 - Northbound J17 (Watford Gap) to J23a (E Mids Airport)

Christmas Day falling on a Friday will help stagger the getaway traffic and the current mild conditions, especially in the south, will reduce the likelihood of incidents

Max Holdstock, AA patrol of the year

Getaway advice

Max Holdstock, AA patrol of the year, says: “Christmas Day falling on a Friday will help stagger the getaway traffic but it’s still going to be very busy at peak times on the major getaway routes. Try to travel when it’s quieter or, if you have no choice, take an alternative route during peak times to beat the jams.

Check the traffic reports before you depart and break up any journey more than three hours long. If you get tired, pull over and drink one or two cups of coffee or other caffeinated drink and take a short nap of no more than 15-20 minutes – if you’re an AA member, you save up to 20% on food and drink at Moto service areas.”

Christmas shopping

Next week, commuter traffic will gradually tail off before falling more significantly on Christmas Eve. However, local leisure traffic will increase with roads very busy around major shopping centres and large supermarkets.

Shopping traffic will peak on Saturday (19 December) with 23% of respondents driving over 20 miles; and last-minute shoppers on Christmas Eve will rack up the miles with 10 per cent (11% men vs 9% women) covering that distance.

With AA Insurance statistics suggesting that collisions in town centre car parks peak during the Christmas period, the AA advises drivers to leave early to beat the queues and use park and ride facilities where possible.

thieves love Christmas and thefts of presents from cars also peaks at Christmas

Max Holdstock, AA patrol of the year

Max Holdstock adds: “If you’re doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, many retailers will be happy to let you leave your items to collect later, rather than make repeated trips back to your car – thieves love Christmas and thefts of presents from cars also peaks at Christmas**.”

The AA app can help you find available car park spaces.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day

The roads won’t be completely deserted on Christmas Day with more than a fifth (22%) of respondents likely to drive over 20 miles. Around a fifth (21%) of respondents will cover at least that distance seeing family or friends on Boxing Day compared to braving the sales (6%).

The AA in your pocket

The AA app is the quickest way to report a breakdown and allows the AA member to track the patrol’s arrival on their smartphone – even on Christmas Day!

AA breakdown cover now comes with unlimited call-outs and helpful extras, such as free fuel sufficient for you to get to a filling station if you’ve run out

Max Holdstock, AA patrol of the year

Max Holdstock says: “The Christmas getaway can be quite stressful but the free AA app can show you live traffic updates from AA Roadwatch; and, if you’re an AA member, help you search out the cheapest fuel and even that elusive car parking space for your Christmas shopping.
 
“For additional peace of mind, AA breakdown cover now comes with unlimited call-outs and helpful extras, such as free fuel sufficient for you to get to a filling station if you’ve run out or a fiver’s worth of free parts for roadside repairs.”

Christmas and New Year travel expectations

We asked the AA-Populus Motoring Panel*, on which of the following days around Christmas and New Year do you expect to use your car for a journey over 20 miles to visit family/friends, go shopping, travel to/from work or travel to/from a holiday.

Date Family/
friends
Shopping/
day trip
To/from
work
To/from
holiday
Total
 Fri (18) 9% 16% 24% 1% 45%
 Sat (19) 13% 23%  8%  1%  41% 
 Sun (20) 16% 15%  6%  1%  34% 
 Mon (21) 8% 14%  21%  1%  40% 
 Tue (22) 8% 13%  20%  1%  39% 
 Wed (23) 10% 14%  18%  1%  40% 
 Thu (24) 16% 10%  12%  1%  36% 
 Fri (25) 19% 1%  2%  0%  22% 
 Sat (26) 21% 6%  3%  1% 30% 
 Sun (27) 17% 9%  4%  3%  31% 
 Mon (28) 14% 11%  6%  3%  30% 
 Tue (29) 9% 11%  12%  2%  31% 
 Wed (30) 9% 11%  12%  2%  32% 
 Thu (31) 12% 7%  10%  1%  28% 
 Fri (1) 11% 5%  3%  1%  19% 
 Sat (2) 10% 13%  5%  2%  28% 
 Sun (3) 10% 8%  5%  2%  23% 
 Mon (4) 4% 8%  23%  1%  34% 

Christmas Day breakdowns

Although it is by far the quietest day of the year for car breakdowns, AA patrols across the country volunteer to work on Christmas Day to rescue those in trouble. 

In 2014, they came to the aid of over 2,700 members on Christmas Day; and this year, around 450 patrols and a similar number of call handlers and operational employees will work in shifts on Christmas Day. Further patrols will be on standby ready to forgo Christmas festivities if required.

Patrols who work on Christmas Day are paid a premium rate and their colleagues at the AA’s operational centre at Oldbury, West Midlands, will enjoy a special Christmas buffet.


(15 December 2015)

* Source: Populus interviewed 29,568 adults aged 18+ on The AA-Populus online panel between 17-23 November 2015. Populus www.populus.co.uk is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

** According to AA Insurance claims statistics 20% of all thefts from cars happen in December.