'Triple Whammy' of Traffic This Bank Holiday

Plan ahead if you're travelling over Spring Bank Holiday

Drivers will be out in force this late Spring bank holiday with around a third (30%) definitely travelling by car and a further fifth (20%) likely to drive. This means that around half, or more than 15 million, of the UK's cars are likely to be on the road over the weekend.

  • 15 million cars likely to hit the road this bank holiday
  • Around half of motorists in UK expected to drive
  • School half-term and 'staycationing' to generate extra traffic, despite mixed weather forecast
  • Routes to coast and national parks busiest
  • Up to 70,000 preventable breakdowns this weekend

Bank holiday traffic

The AA believes roads will be busy because of three main factors:

  • Weather

    although the weather will be cooler than last weekend with a mixture of sunshine and showers, it is still likely to be better than it was at Easter and the early May bank holiday, encouraging people to travel

  • Half-term

    start of the half-term break for most schools

  • Staycation

    concern over disruption to airlines caused by volcanic ash and industrial action will lead to many people staying in the UK rather than travelling abroad.

Friday (28 May 2010) is likely to be the busiest day with commuter traffic mixing with getaway traffic from early afternoon as many people head off early. With most schools breaking up for half-term, many parents may delay departing till Saturday morning, which is likely to be abnormally busy.

On both days, routes to the South-west are likely to be busiest with more caravan traffic expected. Congestion is also expected to be bad on main routes to the coast and national parks.

On the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday (30 and 31 May), traffic delays are more likely to be due to local leisure events with 'home run' traffic on Monday afternoon and evening. However, with many people taking the week off, the following Sunday (6 June) will see the full impact of the returning traffic with commuters benefiting from quieter roads during half-term week.

Paul Leather, AA patrol of the year, says: "Although the weather is expected to be a bit mixed, many drivers will head out regardless and lots of families will travel for half-term. Unless you're somewhere remote, it may be difficult to avoid traffic this weekend."

To help alleviate problems for drivers, the Highways Agency has announced that more than half of roadworks on motorways and major A-roads in England will be lifted before the weekend getaway.

Don't get hot under the collar

Before departing, the AA is encouraging drivers to spend a few minutes doing the basic checks on their car, as it estimates that up to half of all breakdowns could be prevented by this and regular servicing. This could potentially prevent up to 70,000 breakdowns across the country this bank holiday.

Last year, the AA alone attended around 44,000 breakdowns* over the Spring bank holiday, including around 1,300 overheated cars, and will have an extra 20% more patrols on duty.

Paul says: "Although it won't be as warm as last weekend, cars can overheat at any time of the year, especially if you're sitting in stationary or slow-moving traffic.

"Look under the bonnet and check the coolant level and also the operation of the cooling fan. If you notice the temperature gauge rising unusually, the most effective way of temporarily dealing with it is to turn the heater up full and the air conditioning on.

"Take time to do the other recommended checks and don't forget to take a fully-charged mobile, plenty of drinking water, food and some things to keep the kids entertained. Before heading off, plan your route and check the traffic reports, as it could save you a lot of time and unnecessary inconvenience."

To help motorists beat the hotspots the number for the AA's traffic and travel advice line, AA Roadwatch, is 84322 or enter 'the AA' on your mobile phone keypad or call 0906 88 84322 from a landline**.

Top tips for stress-free travelling

Before you hit the road, here's a list of key checks to make life easier:

  • Plan your route in advance and allow plenty of time for the journey;
  • Check local traffic and weather reports – call AA Roadwatch on 84322**
  • Travel when the roads are quieter
  • If tired, stop and drink one or two cups of coffee or other caffeinated drink and take a short nap of no more than 15–20 minutes
  • As one of their Member benefits, personal AA Members get 20% off food and drink at Moto service areas when they show their Membership card
  • Check:
    • oil
    • coolant and windscreen wash levels
    • cooling fan operation
    • lights and tyre pressure (check when tyres are cold and increase pressure for heavy loads if necessary) and tread depth – not forgetting the spare and any caravan/trailer
  • Pack the car safely being careful not to overload or obstruct vision
  • Keep plenty of refreshments on board and plan car games to keep children comfortable and happy throughout the journey.

* Total for Friday, 22 to Tuesday, 26 May 2009 – many people take an extra day off either side of the bank holiday.

** Calls to AA Roadwatch cost up to 65p per minute. Calls should not last longer than 90 seconds.

Last updated: 28 May 2010