New Year travel and the return to work

Monday 4 January likely to be one of the busiest days for breakdowns in 2016

Monday 4 January likely to be one of the busiest days for breakdowns in 2016

Monday 4 January likely to be one of the busiest days for breakdowns in 2016

The main return-to-work day (Monday, 4 January) is expected to be one of the busiest of 2016 for car breakdowns, says the AA, as many vehicles get left unused over the festive period.

The AA alone expects to attend up to 15,000 call-outs – almost 17% busier than normal – and it will have extra patrols on duty.

An AA-Populus survey* of 29,568 AA members found that almost a third of respondents will have at least one car standing unused throughout the festive period that will be relied on come the first day back.

AA members in Northern Ireland (31%), South East England, Wales and Eastern (all 30%) are most likely to be in this situation, compared to those in Scotland (24%) and Northern England and London (both 27%).

The first working day back in January is traditionally one of the busiest day of the year for breakdowns with flat batteries the main culprit

Max Holdstock, AA patrol of the year

Flat batteries the main culprit

Max Holdstock, AA patrol of the year, says: “The first working day back in January is traditionally one of the busiest day of the year for breakdowns with flat batteries the main culprit. The issue is that many cars get left unused for up to a fortnight in often cold conditions, which causes the power output of the battery to drop.

“If your car has been left sitting idle or has been used for mostly short, stop-start journeys, ideally trickle charge the battery. Or, if weather conditions permit, take it out before Monday for at least half an hour to boost the battery.

“When starting, it helps to switch off all the electrics and dip the clutch but, if it doesn’t fire up initially, use the starter in short five-second bursts, leaving thirty seconds between attempts to allow the battery to recover.

If your car has been struggling to start, get the battery tested, as they only have an effective life of around five years

Max Holdstock, AA patrol of the year

“If your car has been struggling to start, get the battery tested, as they only have an effective life of around five years. Many garages offer free or reduced price winter car checks.

“With flood warnings affecting most of Scotland as well as large parts of Cornwall, the Midlands and the North of England, there’s a chance that many drivers who have not seen flooding where they live may encounter flooded roads on their return to work.”

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.

New Year travel

The AA-Populus survey* also found that more than a quarter (28%) of respondents plan to drive more than 20 miles on New Year’s Eve/Hogmanay with 19% covering that distance on New Year’s Day.

The Northern Irish (38%) followed by those in Scotland (31%) are most likely to be racking up more than 20 miles on New Year’s Eve, compared to only 26% of Londoners and those in the North West. The Northern Irish (26%) again top the driving charts on New Year’s Day with those in the North West (17%) least likely to be driving that far.

Although commuter traffic has been a lot quieter this week (w/c 28 December), there is still likely to be significant daytime (10:00-16:00) leisure traffic, particularly around major retail outlets. There is also likely to be heavier than usual traffic on Anglo-Scottish routes (M6 towards Carlisle, A74M and M74, A1 and A68 towards Edinburgh) and some road closures in Edinburgh in preparation for Hogmanay.

On New Year’s Eve, most retail outlets will close early; and there will be further road closures in many Scottish towns and cities and around Trafalgar Square, London, in preparation for the Hogmanay/New Year celebrations.

There will be another wave of traffic during the late afternoon of Sunday, 3 January, as people head home in time for the start of the new school term.

Driving in flood water

  • Don't enter flood water that is moving or more than 10cm (4 inches) deep.
  • Allow oncoming traffic to pass first and drive slowly and steadily to avoid creating a bow wave. Test your brakes as soon as you can after leaving the water.
  • Don't try driving through fast-moving water, such as at a flooded bridge approach – your car could easily be swept away.
  • Slow down and try to avoid standing water if you can.

Check flood warnings in England and Wales »

Check flood warnings in Scotland »


(30 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.