Heavy traffic is expected on UK roads in the run-up to Christmas as almost 20 million drivers plan getaways between today (December 19) and Christmas Eve. According to RAC research, 19.6 million leisure journeys will be taken by car this week, with 40 percent of all those crammed into just two days.

Working with transport analytics company Inrix, the RAC has estimated that traffic will build through the week, with most journeys occurring on Friday, December 23 and Saturday, December 24. On those two days alone, the RAC expects 7.9 million drivers to hit the roads for leisure purposes ahead of Christmas Day on Sunday, December 25.

The RAC has also warned of the effect of rail strikes on traffic volumes, with a large-scale walkout planned on Christmas Eve. And with leisure journeys combining with conventional commuter traffic on December 23, the RAC is warning of jams at “pinch points” on major roads and around cities.


Christmas Day isn’t expected to be quiet on the roads, either, with 3.6 million leisure journeys undertaken by car, followed by another 3.3 million on Boxing Day. A further 1.4 million drivers plan to travel on one of those two days, although they are currently unsure as to which they will choose. However, the RAC says a lack of commuter traffic on those days means delays shouldn’t be too serious.

Overall, Inrix expects travel times to be around 14 percent longer than they were last Christmas, with the M25, M60 and M6 seeing some of the longest traffic jams. That said, Inrix and the RAC both warned that “it only takes a single breakdown on a major road for tailbacks to form quickly”, so drivers should ensure their cars are safe and road-legal before heading out.

Traffic jam

“Our research suggests getaway traffic will build steadily all week, culminating in two frantic days of travelling just before Christmas itself,” said RAC Breakdown spokesperson Rod Dennis. “By Friday, we fear it will be a case of ‘jams today and jams tomorrow’ on the roads as millions of people jump behind the wheel to see family and friends – with last-minute Christmas shoppers as well as the impact of another rail strike also leading to an increase in traffic. If possible, drivers should try to make their trips on a quieter day earlier this week if they possibly can.

“One saving grace for drivers might be that much of the country will see milder weather conditions this week with a much smaller chance of snow and ice like we saw just a week ago. Nonetheless, it’s still vital drivers do everything they can to avoid their cars letting them down. Checking oil and coolant when the engine is cold are two simple things that can cut the chances of a serious breakdown, as is ensuring tyres have plenty of grip and are inflated properly. Topping up with a good quality screenwash that protects to well below zero degrees is also important as gritted roads create a constant need for clearing the windscreen.”