Thursday, December 19 and Friday, December 20 are expected to be the busiest days on the roads this Christmas, with more than 17 million drivers hitting the roads.

That’s the prediction made by the AA, which says “staggered” holiday dates mean some families have had the opportunity to travel earlier than normal, creating a “twin peak” of getaway traffic. The motoring organisation’s survey of almost 18,000 members found that more than half (53 percent) plan to frequent the main roads on Thursday, December 19, while 52 percent said they would hit the roads on Friday, December 20.

According to the AA, traffic is expected to peak from 4pm on Friday (20th), with delays predicted on the M25, the M5 between Bristol and Weston-Super-Mare, and the M6 around Birmingham. However, the AA also says some stretches of the M1 from Luton northwards could also get congested, along with the M62 and M60 in the North West.

Traffic on British motorway M1 in Redborn

Northern Ireland, though, is set to have the busiest roads, with 65 percent of AA members there saying they will be making a “significant” car journey on Friday 20 December. Back on the mainland, London is the city least likely to suffer from an early Christmas traffic surge on Friday, with two-fifths (42 percent) of the population saying they will be on the main roads or motorways next weekend.

“We want people to keep up the holiday spirit when they are driving home for Christmas,” said Ben Sheridan, the AA patrol of the Year. “Besides having your favourite festive playlist ready to go, the best way to ensure a trouble-free journey is to plan ahead. Check the traffic reports before you leave and try to travel when it’s quieter if you can, or consider taking a different route to beat the jams.

Car driving on snow covered road in Cambridge England

“The good news is that Christmas falling mid-week may help to spread journeys out. We still expect peaks in traffic as the staggered getaway from work and school is followed by last minute shopping trips on Saturday, but visits to friends and family are more likely to even out over the week.

“Drivers will want to do all they can to avoid breaking down, especially on a motorway or in the live lane of a smart motorway, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to check the car. Some basic checks before a long journey can help avoid a Christmas breakdown; this includes ensuring you have enough fuel and all the lights are working, checking the engine oil and level topping up the windscreen washer fluid and anti-freeze. Crucially, check the tyre condition and tread depth and adjust tyre pressures for a full load if necessary.

“Along with the Christmas presents, make sure you pack the essentials for your trip including warm or waterproof layers, food, water, a torch, fully-charged mobile and an atlas or sat-nav in case of diversions. If you’re travelling with children, take plenty of things to keep them entertained.”

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