AA amber traffic warning Christmas 2023

AA Amber Traffic Warning Issued for 2023 Christmas Getaway

  • 16.5 million to hit the road in search of festive cheer
  • 23 December the busiest day for holiday travel with 16.4 million trips planned
  • 22 December second busiest day for holiday travel with 16.1 million trips planned
  • Five–star AA patrols out in force to keep Britain moving this Christmas
  • Unsettled weather forecast for much of the holidays – drivers are advised to drive accordingly

The AA has issued an Amber Traffic Warning1 for Saturday 23 December with more than 16.4 million cars2 expected to travel on this day, causing lengthy jams at traffic hotspots. An Amber Traffic Warning has also been issued for Friday 22 December with 16.1 million car journeys expected to take place.

The survey of 12,197 AA members3 has revealed when Britain’s drivers plan to travel across another bumper-to-bumper Christmas.

More than a fifth of drivers (23%) say they’ll be using their car for Christmas shopping on Saturday 23 December, however, Christmas Eve looks to be the main day for shopping with three in 10 (30%) planning to use the car and head for the shops. This will be welcomed by High Streets, markets, retail outlets and shopping centres that will be hopeful of a late festive selling spree before the big day.

The AA is also expecting a spike in evening traffic on Friday 15 December with a majority of schools locking up for the holidays and parents extending the school run home by taking the kids out for an early Christmas treat or a visit to Santa’s Grotto. Heavy traffic is predicted around shopping malls and retail parks where drivers can expect to see a spike in traffic between 16.00 and 19.00.

For those working throughout the build-up to Christmas, a quarter (25%) plan to drive to and from work on Monday 18 December, but this will tail off to one in five (19%) by Friday 22 December as many of those who can, take advantage of flexible working patterns and work from home. Commuter traffic is then expected to remain low until the New Year when Tuesday 2 January will see traffic levels start to return to normal.

As with most years, the main days for celebrating with friends and family will be Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day with each of these days expected to see an average of 14 million car journeys, but these tend to be shorter, localised trips.



Aa xmas 2023

"While Friday 22 December and Saturday 23 December look set to be the busiest travelling days, the unsettled weather forecast could lead to additional delays so drivers should drive to the conditions and slow down where necessary."
Edmund King, AA President

Unsurprisingly, Monday 1 January will be one of the quietest days on the road, with many sensibly choosing not to drive the morning after the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Only one in six (16%) said they plan to drive when visiting friends and family on New Year’s Day.

‘Top to toe in tailbacks, Oh I got red lights all around’

Unsettled weather4 is likely to add to journey times on some stretches of the motorway network including the M25, the M5 between Bristol and Weston-Super-Mare and the M6 around Birmingham. In addition, stretches of the M1 ‘smart’ motorway from Luton northwards can often suffer congestion from incidents or breakdowns, as can the M62 and M60 in the North West. Both the M4 and the A34 are also set to suffer from significant delays.

With rail strikes from some unions continuing, travellers are advised to check with their train operators5 for any unexpected delays or cancellations.

Edmund King, AA president, said: “Our five-star patrols will be supporting our members right across the holidays, but it’s still very important to check your vehicle before you set off. Tyres (including the spare, if you have one), fuel, EV range, oil levels, coolant and screen wash checks should be made as a minimum. Likewise keeping water, high protein food or chocolate, warm clothes, coats and a hi-viz jacket will help keep you going should the worst happen6.

“While Friday 22 December and Saturday 23 December look set to be the busiest travelling days, the unsettled weather forecast could lead to additional delays so drivers should drive to the conditions and slow down where necessary. You can also plan your journey, including breaks, in advance using the AA Route Planner. If you do plan to use the rail network, keep updated by checking train company websites and radio travel alerts.

“Our Which? recommended expert patrols7 will be working throughout the holidays to help fix cars that suffer, while assisting drivers, regardless of their insurer, should they be involved in a crash8. As well as providing up-to-the-minute traffic information, our free app allows people to book and track a patrol8, a bit like the Santa Tracker9 children use on Christmas Eve. Using the free what3words app10 can help to pinpoint your exact location which can help our patrols to get to you faster – useful if you need to get the Christmas meal home in a rush.

“New Year’s Day will be the quietest day on the roads which is probably a good thing especially if drivers have been partying the previous evening. Drivers can still be breathalysed and lose their licence for driving over the limit the morning after. So, remember if you are going to drive, don’t drink, and if you are going to drink, don’t drive.”

1. About the AA Route Planner Traffic Warnings: The first warnings were issued this summer (July 2022) following record traffic at ports on the South Coast of England to alert drivers to the severity of congestion. Traffic Warnings key:

Green – No warnings issued. Traffic at expected levels with minimal congestion and incidents.

Amber – Warnings issued to prepare drivers for forecast congestion.

Red – Warnings issued to alert drivers to live incidents.

Route Planner | Directions, traffic and maps | AA (theaa.com)

2. Vehicle licensing statistics data tables - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) show 33,488,200 licenced cars on the road in Q2 2023.

3. Yonder received 12,197 responses from AA members to its online poll between 13 – 21 November 2023. Yonder is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

4. Weather and climate change - Met Office

5. Welcome to the Official source for UK trains | National Rail

6. Safe Place To Wait On A Motorway | AA (theaa.com)

7. AA Receives Which? Recommended Provider For Sixth Year | AA (theaa.com)

8. Accident Assist and Recovery | Road Accident Assistance | AA (theaa.com)

9. The AA app | AA

10. Download the free what3words app | what3words