Christmas 2013 travel advice

Staggered getaway means fewer jams over Christmas 2013 than recent years

Staggered getaway means fewer jams over Christmas 2013 than recent years

Staggered getaway means fewer jams over Christmas 2013 than recent years

While it may be wet and windy in places, drivers can take consolation that Christmas getaway traffic isn’t expected to be as heavy as normal, says the AA.

The AA’s traffic information partner, Trafficmaster, believes the main getaway will be spread over several days: from friday afternoon (20 December) until Christmas Eve, which should help to ease traffic problems as many take a fortnight break.

Commuter traffic will continue to ease off between now and Christmas Eve. However, local leisure traffic will peak during this period with roads very busy around major shopping centres and large supermarkets. Drivers are advised to leave early to beat the queues and use park and ride facilities where possible.

Busiest roads

According to Trafficmaster, the heaviest traffic can be expected on the following stretches:

  • M25 - All sections but especially around the long-term roadworks between Junction 5 (Sevenoaks) and Junction 6 (Godstone); and around Junction 14/15 (Heathrow Airport and M4 interchange)
  • M1 - Both ways between Junction 6A (M25) and Junction 13 (Milton Keynes); and both ways between Junction 21 and Junction 32 (through East Midlands)
  • M3 - From Junction 2 (M25) to Junction 6 (Basingstoke)
  • M4 - From Junction 1 (Chiswick) to Junction 13 (Newbury); and from Junction 20 (M32) to Junction 32 (Cardiff)
  • M6 - Both ways between Junction 4 and Junction 11 (through West Midlands); and both ways between Junction 11A (M6 Toll northern end) and Junction 21 (M62)
  • M60 - All sections, especially both ways between Junction 12 (Eccles) and Junction 18 (M62/M66)
  • M62 - From Junction 12 (M60 and Eccles) to Junction 10 (M6 and Warrington); and both ways around Junctions 26/30 (through West Yorkshire)

With many expected to take a fortnight off, traffic will remain light after Christmas, according to Trafficmaster, except around retail outlets as New Year sales get under way. Normal commuter traffic patterns will resume from the main return to work on Monday, 6 January.

Driving over Christmas and New Year

A recent AA-Populus survey* of 21,587 AA members found that Friday 20 December and Monday 23 December will be the busiest days with 41 and 37 per cent respectively driving more than 20 miles.

Saturday 21 December is set to be the busiest day for shopping or other day trips with twice as many (20% vs 10%) driving more than 20 miles for this reason than on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve, unsurprisingly, more men (11%) than women (9%) will be out last-minute Christmas shopping.

Christmas Day

The roads won’t be completely deserted on Christmas Day with more than a fifth (22%) of respondents likely to cover more than 20 miles by car.

Boxing Day

On Boxing Day, four times as many will cover at least 20 miles seeing family or friends (21%) than braving the sales (5%).

New Year

Almost a quarter (24%) will venture more than 20 miles on New Year’s Eve/Hogmanay with New Year’s Day one of the quietest days (17%). On the former, one-in-ten nationally will drive more than 20 miles seeing family or friends, particularly the Northern Irish (18%) and Scots (12%).

heavy rain and wind currently forecast for northern and western areas could cause some disruption. Keep tuned to the weather and traffic reports and, if it’s bad, allow more time for your journey

Tony Rich, AA patrol of the year

Be prepared and be informed

Tony Rich, AA patrol of the year, says: “With Christmas and New Year falling on a Wednesday, it’s expected that many people will start a two-week break from Friday.

“While this will help stagger getaway traffic – on what is usually one of the busier periods on the roads – heavy rain and wind currently forecast for northern and western areas could cause some disruption. Keep tuned to the weather and traffic reports and, if it’s bad, allow more time for your journey.

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

“Before heading off, take a few minutes to do the basic checks on your car, not forgetting to top up the windscreen wash, check and clean your lights, and adjust tyre pressures for a full load, if required.

“Also with an unsettled forecast, 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.”

Christmas Day working

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

Last year, they came to the aid of around 3,200 members on Christmas Day; and 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, will enjoy a special Christmas buffet.

Date Driving more than 20 miles to visit family or friends Driving more than 20 miles for shopping or other day trip Total driving more than 20 miles
Friday(20/12) 9%  14%  41%
Saturday(21/12)  13% 20%  36% 
Sunday(22/12)  14% 13%  29% 
Monday(23/12)  10% 14%  37% 
Christmas Eve  16% 10%  35% 
Christmas Day  19%  1% 22%
Boxing Day  21% 5%  29% 
Friday(27/12)  14% 10%  33% 
Saturday(28/12)  11% 11%  26% 
Sunday(29/12)  10% 6%  20% 
Monday(30/12)  7% 7%  24% 
New Year's Eve  10% 5%  24% 
New Year's Day  10% 4%  17% 
Thursday(2/1)  5% 6%  26% 
Friday(3/1)  4% 6%  27% 

(19 December 2013)

* Source: Populus interviewed 21,587 adults aged 18+ on The AA/Populus online panel between 14-21 November 2013. Populus www.populus.co.uk is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

 

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