2012 festive travel and weather

Driving over Christmas and New Year 2012

60 per cent plan to drive over Christmas and New Year

60 per cent plan to drive over Christmas and New Year

The 2012 great British Christmas getaway started on Thursday according to AA Roadwatch and Trafficmaster.

Commuter traffic will ease off through the week.

With most schools breaking up on Friday, getaway traffic will peak on Friday afternoon and Saturday (21 and 22 December 2012).

It is expected that all non-emergency roadworks on major roads will be completed before Friday, 21 December and new works will not commence until Monday, 7 January 2013. On the longer-term major schemes, work will be suspended during the same period, with road layouts left as to minimise disruptions.

Busiest roads

According to Trafficmaster, the top five busiest stretches are likely to be:

  • M25 - between Junction 12 (M3) and Junction 17 (M40) both ways
  • M6 - between Junction 11A (M6 Toll) and Junction 21 (M62) both ways
  • M1 - between Junction 6A (M25) and Junction 13 (Milton Keynes)
  • M5 - between Junction 15 (M4) and Junction 18
  • M62 - between Junction 10 (M6 and Warrington) and Junction 12 (M60 at Eccles)

This is always one of the busiest periods on the roads and with the possibility of flooding it is vital to check the weather and traffic before heading off and plan accordingly. Pay particular attention to any severe weather warnings that may be in force in your region and check Environment Agency flood warnings.

Don't take a chance with the weather

The outlook is for the weather to become more unsettled with the risk of wet and windy weather and possible flooding which could affect travel over Christmas and New Year.

Andy Smith, AA patrol of the year

Andy Smith, AA patrol of the year, says: “The outlook is for the weather to become more unsettled with the risk of wet and windy weather and possible flooding which could affect travel over Christmas and New Year.

“It's better to go the long way around and arrive safe and dry rather than risk driving through flood water, and yet we still see some drivers deliberately ignore the advice of the emergency services and proceed down flooded roads. Not only do they put themselves and their families at unnecessary risk but it’s likely their insurer would take a dim view of this idiotic behaviour and reject any resulting claim.

"If you’re travelling with children, take plenty of things to keep them entertained and break up any journey more than three hours long.

“Pack a few extra warm and waterproof layers, food, water, torch, fully-charged mobile and an atlas or sat-nav in case of any unexpected diversions or delays.”

Driving over Christmas and New Year

A recent AA/Populus survey* of 22,287 AA members found that 60 per cent plan to drive over Christmas and New Year with the Northern Irish (73%) most likely to be hitting the road and the Welsh (55%) least likely.

More than two-thirds (69%) of 25-34-year-olds expect to drive over the festive period compared with only 54 per cent of those aged 65 and over.

Christmas Eve

Although many people won’t be working on Christmas Eve, the roads will still be busy with last-minute Christmas shoppers and getaway traffic. In total, 38 per cent of those surveyed expect to drive on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day

The roads won’t be completely deserted on Christmas Day with around a third (32%) likely to hop in the car, mostly on relatively short journeys; and the New Year sales will help draw out more people on Boxing Day with 35 per cent driving.

New Year

The weekend after Christmas is expected to be relatively quiet on the roads apart from Anglo-Scottish routes – M6 towards Carlisle, A74M, and M74, A1 and A68 towards Edinburgh.

24% plan to drive on New Year’s Eve and 21% on New Year’s Day – both days are expected to be quiet on the roads.

Most retail outlets will close early on Monday 31 December and there will be road closures in the centre of many Scottish towns and cities and in central London in preparation for Hogmanay/New Year celebrations.  Road closures will remain in place in London for the New Year’s Day parade on Tuesday morning.

How far will you be driving?

Of those planning to drive on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day, they expect to cover:

Distance Christmas Eve Christmas Day Boxing Day 
 0-24 miles  63%  70%  57%
 25-49 miles  14% 14%  16% 
 50-99 miles  10% 9%  12% 
 100-199 miles  8% 5%  9% 
 200-499 miles  3% 1%  3% 
 500+ miles  -  -  -
 Don't know  2% 1%  2% 

Christmas shopping

Trafficmaster expects busy traffic around major retail outlets until Christmas Eve, particularly at closing times. Sunday (23 December) is likely to be the busiest shopping day and most shops close early on Christmas Eve.

Where do AA members shop?

The survey also asked where AA members normally purchase Christmas presents:

  • Town centre (52%)
  • Out-of-town shopping centres (9%)
  • Online (24%)
  • Online but visit shops to look first (8%)
  • Mail order (1%)
  • Other (2%)
  • Don’t buy Christmas presents (4%)

Christmas Day working

Although it’s the quietest day of the year for traffic and breakdowns, AA patrols across the country volunteer to work on Christmas Day to rescue those in trouble.

  • Last year, AA breakdown patrols came to the aid of around 2,700 members on Christmas Day
  • 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, get provided with a Christmas buffet.

(21 December 2012)

* Source: Populus interviewed 22,287 adults aged 18+ on The AA/Populus online panel between 22-29 November 2012. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.


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