How to avoid a traffic meltdown this summer

AA summer driving advice

16 July 2021

  • Perfect storm for traffic as Freedom Day and school holidays approach
  • Drivers will travel an average of 187 miles to reach UK holiday destinations with Cornwall, Devon and Yorkshire top hotspots
  • Check your car before you travel, AA urges

The AA urges drivers to carry out essential car checks before setting off for UK holidays and day trips this summer, as traffic is expected to rise with the temperature.

The arrival of Freedom Day on Monday (19th) and start of the school summer holidays from Friday (23rd) could be a perfect storm for peak traffic according to the AA, as families keen to recapture #thatfeeling hit the road for the first weekend of freedom. 

An AA-Yonder survey showed nearly two fifths (38%) of drivers are planning a summer trip, equating to around 12,500 car journeys. A further third (34%) were undecided but if they do travel, will probably drive.

The top UK holiday destinations being visited by AA members are:

Position Location Average distance travelled to destination (miles)
1 Cornwall 264
2 Devon 178
3 Yorkshire 149
4 Norfolk 133
5 Dorset 139

Drivers heading to the top five UK destinations will travel an average of 187 miles to get there.

AA Media has seen a 26% increase in visitors to the website across all accommodation types. AA Hotels in particular have seen a 67% leap in interest in the last 7 days, compared to the prior week.

The most recent getaway – the May bank holiday weekend – saw 44% of AA members make a trip by car. Journeys are likely to be higher once remaining lockdown restrictions are lifted and traffic is expected to increase into the summer.

But just 20% of drivers used the most recent bank holiday weekend to carry out vehicle maintenance, either at home or at their local garage. Many breakdowns could be avoided through simple checks.

Battery issues, tyre faults and keys locked in the car are some of the most common reasons for drivers to call the AA for help during summer.

While many undertake basic preparations before a long journey such as filling up with fuel (90%), checking tyre pressures (72%) and checking the washer fluid level (70%), far fewer check the engine oil level (55%) and tyre conditions (50%). Only a third (35%) check the coolant/ antifreeze level.

Ben Sheridan, AA patrol of the year, said: “Lots of people will be keen to get out and about to rediscover that feeling of freedom over summer. But with many vehicles having seen less use in recent months, it’s important to make sure the car is up to the job before you hit the road.

“We tend to see an increase in breakdowns as the weather gets hotter. Warm and sunny spells tempt more people to travel further afield on day trips and last minute getaways. Meanwhile hotter temperatures can also exacerbate existing problems, putting extra strain on cooling systems and tyres - particularly if it’s the first long journey for some time.

“It’s well worth spending a few minutes on essential checks before your summer road trip. Pay particular attention to the tyres, checking the condition, tread depth and pressures, and check your fluid levels too – engine oil and washer fluid. If you’re not sure, consult your handbook or consider taking your car to your local garage for a summer check.

“Finally, as part of your preparations make sure you have breakdown cover in place with the app or number on your phone in case you need help.”

There are six key areas to check: Fuel, Lights, Oil, Water, Electrics, Rubber. When it comes to remembering them, just think FLOWER. Further advice on maintenance checks can be found here

Families on the road this summer can get a heads-up on traffic problems using AA route planner and can find nearby parking spaces, petrol stations and EV charge points using the AA app, which can also be used to report a breakdown and save money on days out.