The arrival of the school summer holidays in England and Wales will be marked by drivers taking an estimated 11.5m leisure trips by car between today and the end of the weekend, a study by the RAC and INRIX suggests.
The RAC expects today and Friday (23 July) to be the busiest days on the roads in this period with around 2.6m and 2.3m leisure trips made by drivers respectively. Journey times are likely to be severely affected with transport analytics experts INRIX predicting a 29% increase in delays on Friday, compared to typical July travel times.
As millions clamour for space on the UK’s roads in a desperate bid to get away for a well-earned break, the RAC and Highways England are urging everyone still prepared to brave the incredibly busy conditions to make sure theirs cars – and anything they might be towing – are up to the task. With so many cars only having been driven short distances during months of travel restrictions, the risk of breaking down on a long journey increases considerably. Checking tyres, oil, coolant and screenwash levels will be more important this summer than ever and could make the difference between drivers getting safely to their holiday destinations or being broken down at the side of a busy road.
Data from INRIX indicates that some of the roads to watch for jams will be sections of the M25, the A303 in Wiltshire, the M1 in the East Midlands and the M4 west of Newport in South Wales – in addition to other usual hotspots like the M5 through Somerset and Devon and roads leading to other popular destinations like the Lake District and the South Coast.
Separate figures released by the RAC last week indicate the summer of 2021 is likely to be the busiest in years, with international travel restrictions scuppering the plans of millions who would normally jet off in search of the sunshine at this time of year. Just 7% of UK drivers say they expect to take a holiday elsewhere in Europe this summer, down from 10% who said this when questioned in April – with a third of those still hoping for a foreign trip saying they will holiday in the UK instead if they have to.
RAC Breakdown spokesman Simon Williams said:
“We seem to have all the elements of a perfect storm on the UK’s roads this summer – with millions of drivers having already planned their staycation trips, plus the very real prospect of huge numbers more booking last minute if their foreign travel plans end in tatters because of Covid travel restrictions.
“With the current heatwave, the scene is really set for an incredibly busy few weeks on the country’s roads, whether that’s on motorways or on smaller, minor routes that take people to popular tourist destinations by the coast or in the countryside. It’s never been more important to plan ahead to avoid the busiest times.
“With the roads likely to be so busy, we’re expecting the numbers of people needing our help to rocket, but it’s not too late to reduce your chances of breaking down. This is why we can’t stress enough how important checking tyres, oil and coolant levels is.
“We’re taking steps to prepare for the unprecedented demand the breakdown industry is facing this summer due to both the UK staycation and the impact of the current self-isolation rules on staffing levels. We’ll be doing all we can to get to those members who do break down as quickly as possible, in these very challenging circumstances.”
Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, said:
“With the possibility of record numbers of people using the roads this summer, drivers – especially around major metro areas – must be prepared for more delays. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic, and our advice is to leave as early in the day as possible and to avoid travelling on Friday afternoon if at all possible.”
Highways England traffic officer Siobhan Wares, who patrols the M25 and other major routes, said:
“You are more likely to experience a breakdown or a collision if your tyres are incorrectly inflated or in a poor condition. It only takes a few minutes to check your tyre pressure before you go on your day trip or staycation this summer, and it could save you time and money in the long run. Help yourself and your family reach your destination safely by checking your vehicle before you go.”
The fastest way for RAC members to log a breakdown and get help is online at www.rac.co.uk/reportbreakdown.
Beat the queues: An at-a-glance guide to travel this weekend (data from INRIX and the RAC)
Expected worst days for delays over this period is Wednesday 21 and Friday 23 July
|Date||Leisure trips by car||Major roads likely to be particularly busy between||Major roads likely to be less busy between||Specific roads where delays can be expected (breakdowns or collisions can significantly increase journey times across the road network)|
|Wednesday 21 July||2.6m||2pm and 6pm||After 6pm||M25 anticlockwise J17 to J12; M25 anticlockwise J4 to J1|
|Thursday 22 July||2.0m||2pm and 7pm||After 7pm||M25 anticlockwise J4 to J1; M25 clockwise J7 to J16|
|Friday 23 July||2.3m||11am to 7pm||After 8pm||A303 West Solstice Park to A36; M4 east J29 to J24|
|Saturday 24 July||2.0m||10am to 4pm||After 5pm||M25 clockwise J7 to J16; M5 south J15 to J23|
|Sunday 25 July||1.3m||12pm to 6pm||After 7pm||M25 clockwise J7 to J16; M25 Anticlockwise J4 to J1; A303 West Solstice Park to A36|
Ben’s tips: How to avoid a breakdown this summer from the RAC’s patrol of the year, Ben Aldous
Always remember the word ‘FORCES’:
Fuel – Don’t risk running out of fuel, top up before you set out. More people heading onto the roads in the good weather can lead to traffic jams, especially on routes to the beaches
Oil – check it’s at the right level, and get your car booked in at a garage if you’re topping up more than usual
Rubber – tyres need to be in good condition and inflated to the correct pressures for the load. The legal tread depth is 1.6mm, but it’s best to change them well before they reach this point
Coolant – this is vital in ensuring the engine runs at the right temperature. If it’s not between the ‘min’ and ‘max’ levels, this could be the sign of a problem so contact a good garage without delay
Electrics – if your indicators, hazard lights, headlights, fog lights, reverse lights or brake lights aren’t working properly, you are putting yourself and your family at risk.
Screenwash – helps keep your windscreen clear of dirt and insects
Visit the RAC website for more information on how to avoid a summer breakdown.