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UK told to brace for Easter bank holiday traffic hotspots

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The RAC says drivers are collectively planning an estimated 21.46m leisure journeys by car this coming weekend, the highest number for an Easter bank holiday since the the organisation first started tracking motorists’ plans in 2014.

Good Friday – the first bank holiday since the start of the year – looks set to be the single busiest day of the long weekend with drivers planning in the region of 4.62m separate leisure trips, followed by bank holiday Monday (3.96m) with Saturday and Sunday each seeing around 3.63m journeys by car. An additional estimated 5.6m trips will be taken by drivers at some point between Friday and Monday.

The RAC together with transport analytics specialists INRIX are predicting some extremely busy roads, with the Easter getaway likely to be made worse by the impact of closures to some parts of the railway network. Major engineering work between London and Birmingham is likely to push more people onto the roads, including those making their way from Manchester and Liverpool to Wembley to watch the semi-final of the FA Cup on Saturday. Expected rail strikes in Scotland and the north of England could also make matters worse.

INRIX data suggests that the M6 north between Liverpool and the Lake District, south towards Stoke-on-Trent, the M25 between Surrey and the M40 exit, and the A303 near Stonehenge could see some of the worst congestion, with drivers urged to set off as early as they can or to delay their trips until the end of the day to stand a better chance of a smoother journey. Inevitable breakdowns also risk causing additional long queues, so the RAC is strongly urging drivers to check their vehicles are ‘road-ready’ before setting out.

In addition to the expected traffic jams, drivers also face the costliest Easter on record when it comes to petrol and diesel prices with 6% of drivers saying they’re not planning a car trip at all over the weekend for this very reason. Separate research by the RAC also suggests that the high pump prices might affect people’s trips in other ways – one-in-five drivers (20%) said they plan on driving a shorter distance this Easter than in previous years, with the same proportion saying they’ll be cutting back on other Easter expenditure because of high petrol and diesel prices. More than a quarter (28%) said they’re planning on using their cars less, while a third (33%) will be deliberately driving more economically to try to keep their Easter fuel spending down.

The research also found that only a fifth of drivers (19%) say they always check their cars are ‘road-ready’ before making an Easter trip, increasing the potential for breakdowns to ruin the start of many people’s breaks. Half of drivers (51%) said they sometimes checked their cars over before setting out but an alarming 30% said they never do. The RAC is therefore reminding people that spending just a little time checking their vehicles’ oil, coolant and tyres can prevent a very inconvenient breakdown.

Bob Pishue, INRIX Transportation Analyst, said: “Even with a significant increase in petrol prices, we expect a large jump in holiday driving compared to the last few years. Drivers should expect congestion on major roadways around urban areas and popular destinations. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”

National Highways customer services director Melanie Clarke added: “This is the first bank holiday of the year, so we expect the roads to be busy with people looking to make the most of a long weekend. To help keep disruption to a minimum, we’re lifting more than a thousand of miles of roadworks.

“The last thing anybody wants on the way to their destination is to have a vehicle breakdown. That’s why it’s really important people spend a few minutes checking the condition of their tyres before setting off.”

Christmas 2021 traffic set to be busiest for five years

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This Christmas could see the busiest getaway on the roads in five years, with an estimated 27m trips by car to see friends and family between today and Christmas Eve, a study by the RAC and INRIX shows.

With many schools in England and Wales breaking up today, the RAC’s figures suggest there will be an extended getaway in the run-up to Christmas, with an average of 4.1m such journeys taking place every day next week, culminating in most leisure journeys by car – some 5.3m – taking place on Christmas Eve, which the RAC has dubbed ‘Frantic Festive Friday’.

Thursday 23rd is expected to be next busiest with around 4.1m leisure trips taken as drivers criss-cross the country to spend Christmas with those close to them. Drivers are advised to set off early or postpone their trips until after dark to avoid the worst of the traffic.

Given Covid travel restrictions are expected to be much less strict this year compared to last, the figures indicate that drivers are keen to make the most of the Christmas and New Year period to see friends and loved ones, but it’s still the case that one in 10 drivers (10%) don’t plan on travelling by car at all over Christmas because of the pandemic. The rapidly developing situation with infections of the Omicron variant could, however, still curtail the country’s Christmas celebrations.

Both the RAC and transportation analytics specialists INRIX believe there is likely to be less pre-Christmas congestion than in a ‘typical’ non-Covid year, with the ‘work from home’ guidance leading to far fewer commuters on the roads. Nonetheless, INRIX data shows that drivers are likely to face festive delays on the clockwise M60 near Manchester, the southbound M40 in Oxfordshire and the northern and western sections of the M25. The single worst queue before Christmas is expected on the M25 between Gatwick and the junction for the M40 on Thursday afternoon.

Looking ahead to traffic over the Christmas break itself, the RAC’s research indicates that Christmas Day, Boxing Day and the Monday bank holiday could all turn out to be busier than normal for leisure trips this year – with around 4.5m journeys a day by car taken to see friends and family, compared to the average of around 3.5m for the same period since 2015.** INRIX also predicts some lengthy jams – delays of more than 45 minutes on the clockwise M25 between Gatwick and the M40 on Boxing Day, and of nearly an hour and a half on the same stretch the following day.

RAC Breakdown spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “Despite the increasing prevalence of the Omicron Covid variant, our research shows that the vast majority of drivers are still determined to do Christmas properly this year – in sharp contrast to 12 months ago. We’re expecting the biggest Christmas getaway for five years, including a ‘Frantic Festive Friday’ on Christmas Eve. But with overall traffic volumes in the run-up to the big day set to be down slightly on normal given the current ‘work from home’ guidance, there’s reason to hope there won’t be too many queues as millions get away to see friends and family.

“As well as adding to the traffic jams, just a single breakdown has the potential to ruin Christmas which is why we’re urging drivers to make sure their vehicles are ‘road ready’ before they set out. Spending a few minutes checking that tyres are in good condition and are properly inflated, and ensuring oil, coolant and screenwash levels are all correct can dramatically reduce the chances of running into problems – as our patrols will testify, it’s always time well spent.

“Our figures this year also point to more drivers using the roads between Christmas Day and New Year for leisure trips than normal – perhaps to make up for the fact that last Christmas was such a write-off for so many people. Popular days for travel are often busy days for breakdowns, so following our advice to avoid a breakdown in the first place is arguably more important than ever this year. But, for anyone who still runs into trouble, our expert local patrols will be working incredibly hard throughout the festive period to keep them moving.”

INRIX transportation analyst Bob Pishue said: “With kids out of school and many Brits taking extended time off for the holidays, drivers can expect moderate delays around the UK, but heavier congestion on motorways in and out of the cities. Leaving later in the day is recommended, as roads will begin to clog up during the early afternoon.”

National Highways customer service director Melanie Clarke said: “We don’t want roadworks to spoil Christmas so we’re doing everything we can to make journeys as smooth as possible; that’s why we’re keeping almost 98% of the road network we manage free from roadworks.

“Our dedicated control room teams and traffic officer patrols are geared up to help those travelling over the Christmas and we’re expecting Thursday 23 December to be one of the busier days in the lead up to the festive period.

“We know from experience that peak travel times can vary in the run-up to Christmas, so we’re encouraging drivers to check traffic conditions before heading out to help keep traffic flowing.”

Met Office forecaster and presenter Alex Deakin said: “Weather in the UK in the run up to Christmas looks more grey than white. High pressure, and therefore dry weather, will dominate but it will also remain mostly overcast. Fog is likely to be the biggest hazard on the roads and at this time of year it can take all day to clear so it won’t just be a morning problem.

“There are signs of a shift around the Christmas weekend to something a little wetter but it’s too early to say more than that at the moment. Tune into our updated RAC forecast next week to find out what you need to know for any trips you’re making. And stay up-to-date with the Met Office forecasts online or download our weather App for the weather at your fingertips.”

RAC forecasts ‘unprecedented summer’ on the UK roads as staycation fever hits

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This summer will see ‘unprecedented’ levels of traffic on UK roads due to drivers planning in excess of an estimated 29m staycations – 16m of these in the school holidays alone – according to a study of 2,500 drivers conducted by RAC Breakdown.

The number of drivers making firm staycation bookings has surged 20% since April, with the RAC figures suggesting the West Country – Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset – will receive the largest numbers of holidaymakers (30%), followed by Scotland (14%), Yorkshire (8%), the Lake District (6%) and East Anglia (6%).

And while many drivers have already decided which week they’ll be going away, a sizeable fifth (18%) are yet to commit to a week. This suggests some people are hoping to grab a last-minute booking or are perhaps holding out to see what the Great British weather has in store before committing.

With the school summer holidays just around the corner and most families already having made their plans for a break, the prospect of lengthy bumper-to-bumper queues on major routes – and a spike in breakdowns – has now shot up. The RAC is therefore urging drivers to make sure their cars – and anything they might be towing – are ‘road ready’ or risk a breakdown during what could turn out to be one of the busiest summers on the roads in years.

Quickly checking a car’s tyres, oil, coolant and even fuel levels before setting off makes the difference between a smooth journey and one blighted by a breakdown. Drivers should also check traffic conditions before setting out and avoid travelling on the busiest roads during the busiest periods.

Drivers were also asked how far from home they’ll be holidaying in the UK, and results suggest many of us will be travelling much further than usual. The majority (57%) say they’ll be more than 150 miles from home, with 17% of these more than 300 miles from home. But interestingly a third of drivers (33%) who had a staycation in 2020 say they’ll be driving greater distances in the UK this year, perhaps to explore new corners of the country.

Uncertainty around foreign travel could also have the effect of boosting the volumes of traffic on the UK’s roads even further, particularly as Office of National Statistics’ data shows as many as 9.4m overseas trips were made in August 2019. Just 7% of drivers expect to take a summer holiday elsewhere in Europe, down from 10% in April. And of those drivers who are still holding on for a foreign trip this summer, 34% say they will end up holidaying in the UK instead if pandemic restrictions affect their plans.

While the car on its own is the most popular means of going on holiday this year, accounting for 90% of trips that will be made by personal transport, 5% will involve towing a caravan or trailer, and a further 5% will be in a motorhome. When it comes to the types of accommodation drivers will be staying in, self-catering is the most popular (46% of drivers), followed by hotels and B&Bs (22%) and camping or touring sites (17%).

RAC issues warning over catalytic converter thefts

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Criminals have been targeting cars parked during lockdown to fuel the illegal trade of precious metals, according to the RAC and insurer Ageas.

Ageas says it has seen a marked rise in theft of catalytic converters since the start of the first lockdown just over a year ago, with this type of crime now accounting for three-in-10 of all theft claims reported.

Before the lockdown catalytic converter theft only accounted for around one-in-five, the company’s data shows.

Most thefts have happened while cars have been parked at home, either on the driveway or the road, although in a very small number of cases thieves were brazen enough to steal them in supermarket car parks while the driver was shopping.

Quick backgrounder: Catalytic converters form part of a car’s exhaust system. They contain a honeycomb coated with precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium which help to reduce and filter harmful gases from the vehicles’ exhaust systems. 

But criminals steal catalytic converters so they can sell them on and make money from the precious metals inside them. 

When global values of these metals go up it usually leads to a spate of thefts. Prices of rhodium hit a record highs earlier this year, up more than 200 per cent since March 2020.

Robin Challand, Claims Director at Ageas, said: “While catalytic converters are just one component of a car, their theft can often result in a driver’s car being written off which is the last thing we want for our customers. We hope that by shining a spotlight on this type of crime, we can arm motorists with the information they need to protect their vehicles.”

RAC Insurance spokesman Simon Williams said: “Drivers are often oblivious of their vehicle’s catalytic converter being stolen. Our patrols are often called to attend cars that have suddenly become excessively noisy. On investigation it’s very often the case that the car’s catalytic converter has been stolen.

“We’d strongly recommend motorists get in the habit of taking extra precautions to guard against this type of crime. Generally-speaking, most car crime takes place at night, so it makes sense to park a vehicle in a well-lit and residential location, or ideally in a garage if available. When away from home, look for car parks that have security patrols and are covered by CCTV. It’s also a good idea to look for the ParkMark logo at car parks as this shows they have met certain security standards.

“But unfortunately, as Ageas’ data shows, even taking sensible precautions may not necessarily make you immune to this type of crime. For this reason, having a strong, comprehensive insurance policy is a vital in case the worst happens.”

RAC: We’re more dependent on the car than a year ago

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

35% of UK drivers – equivalent of 14.7m people – say they are more dependent on using their car than 12 months ago, with public transport seen as an expensive and unreliable alternative.

That’s according to data released as part of the latest RAC Report on Motoring, which show a further rise in the proportion of drivers who say they rely on their cars as their main mode of transport – increased dependency is up from 33% in 2018, and from 27% a year earlier, and is now at its highest proportion in the past seven years.

Just 14% of drivers (the equivalent of around 5.9m people) say they have become less dependent than a year ago, though this has also increased from 12% in 2018 indicating a small rise in those saying they are less dependent on their vehicles.

At a time when the Government and local councils are keen for drivers to use their cars less frequently to improve air quality and cut congestion, the RAC says it believes the findings are a stark reminder of the reality for many people, especially those who live outside the biggest cities – that for good or bad, millions of people remain enormously dependent on their cars for many types of journeys.

The top reasons drivers give for using their cars more are a greater need to transport family members (28%), family and friends moving further away (24%) and, perhaps most strikingly, a reduction in the provision or quality of public transport (25%) – with drivers in the North East (42%) significantly more likely to call this out as a reason for them increasingly turning to the car.

Drivers are particularly frustrated by the lack of feasible alternatives to the car for the journeys they need to make, according to the data. Most – 57%, the equivalent of almost 23.9m people – say they would be willing to use their cars less if the quality of public transport was better, and agreement with this statement has been high for an incredible 11 consecutive years. Around half of drivers (53%) say they are frustrated by the lack of feasible alternative modes of transport for long journeys, with a similar proportion (52%) saying the same about short journeys. These figures both rise to 55% for drivers aged between 25 and 44.

Among drivers who would be willing to use public transport more, half (50%) say the reason they don’t use public transport more is that fares are too high – up by five percentage points on last year – while 41% say services are not frequent enough. Meanwhile, a growing number of people (36% – up from 31% in 2018) say that a lack of punctuality is a significant barrier to them using public transport as an alternative to driving, and 38% say services don’t run where they need them to.

Of those who would be willing to consider using public transport if services were better, almost a third (31%) say they would make more use of it if there was greater availability of services – a figure that rises to 40% for rural motorists, reflecting to some extent the significant cuts that were made to rail services following the Beeching Report and, more recently, to rural bus services as highlighted last year by the Parliamentary Transport Committee.

The RAC’s findings also show that motorists who live in London are more likely to use alternatives to their cars compared to drivers elsewhere in the UK. In the capital, on average 38% of each driver’s weekly journeys are made either by public transport, walking or cycling, compared with a national average of just 24%.

For those who live in villages or other rural areas, cars typically account for an enormous 85% of all journeys, with just 15% currently represented by public transport, cycling or walking.

Across the UK as a whole, an overwhelming majority of motorists (73%) say they would find it very difficult to adjust to life without a car – with more than half (54%) of this group stating this is because their vehicle is essential for carrying heavy items. Given the capital’s more comprehensive public transport system, a smaller proportion of drivers in London (58%) say they would struggle to adjust without a car – compared to 84% of motorists who live in villages and rural communities.

Get the complete picture with RAC Advanced Telematics

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It goes without saying that one of the biggest assets for a company is its fleet, keeping your business on the move day-in day-out.

But while you trust your colleagues to adhere to all the rules and regulations governing commercial vehicles, how can you measure and improve driver behaviour?

At RAC this is something we researched comprehensively with the Transport Research Laboratory before launching our RAC Advanced Telematics box.

Our driving behaviour scores are based on real risk measures including braking levels, acceleration rates, speeding, night time driving and urban environment driving.

The algorithms we’ve developed for the RAC Advance system have been trusted and endorsed by six of the top insurers who utilise our RAC Black Box insurance for certain high risk groups such as young drivers.

The RAC methodology has excellent correlation between scoring and behaviour and immediately shows where driving style can be improved.

For us it’s key that the data being gathered by the device in-car, can be quickly and clearly presented to the user, in order to provide real insight and value to the fleet managers. So drivers are able to monitor and benchmark their scores on an easy-to-use driver app and absorb hints and tips to better improve their driving score.

At the same time fleet managers are able to track these scores within the Management Information System accessible on a 24/7/365 portal to assist them to intervene with bad driving behaviours or reward good driving behaviours.

Research into the benefits of utilising telematics to impact driver behaviour suggests:

  • 43% Decrease in accidents
  • 55% Less fuel usage
  • 31% Reduction in maintenance spend
  • 49% Reduction in speeding incidents

Interested to hear more? Get in touch for a system demonstration and to find out about our six months free offer.

For more information, contact Tracey Speke.

T: 07773 035055

E: tspeke@rac.co.uk

RAC Connected offers fleets proactive service and early intervention to prevent breakdown

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Unplanned downtime and vehicles off the road due to preventable breakdown issues, could be a thing of the past for fleets. 

RAC Connected now offers a proactive service to prevent small issues becoming roadside breakdowns, thanks to RAC telematics units at the heart of a more advanced diagnostic system.

The unit, developed by the RAC, links into the OBD Port picking up DTC fault codes from the engine management system. It can identify a developing issue and enable RAC to proactively call the driver if the DTC detected is a problem. If the customer has RAC Breakdown cover for business as well as telematics, the issue can then be dealt with by one of the RAC’s 1,600 expert patrol technicians as an early intervention. 

The RAC Connected service can also link to RAC Accident Services enabling intervention much earlier in the event of an accident as well as breakdown.

Benefits to customers include:

  • Proactive monitoring of DTC Codes
  • Patrol sent to your driver in the event of likely breakdown
  • Early intervention to prevent problems escalating by booking vehicle in for maintenance
  • Reduced costs and downtime 

For more information contact Tracey Speke 

Tel – 07773 035055

Email – tspeke@rac.co.uk

RAC Advance, now with integrated dashcam

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By RAC

RAC Advance combines market-leading technology with a level of service that provides complete peace of mind for the driver and fleet manager.

The telematics unit includes patented crash detection technology, tested by the Transport Research Laboratory, giving a 92% accuracy result, eliminating false positives even at low speed.

By monitoring both acceleration and vibration signatures at the point of an incident, RAC Advance is able to identify whether a crash has, or hasn’t, taken place with a 92% certainty.

Our highly accurate crash detection certainty is market leading, especially when compared to the industry standard of 50%. It also means you’ll receive an accurate FNOL (first notification of loss) report of an incident within minutes, detailing the speed, location, impact and severity.

The RAC is now making this an even more powerful fleet tool with the introduction of the integrated dashcam. Footage from the dashcam synced with the telematics unit provides a 100 per cent accurate report enabling speedy liability decisions.

Benefits to fleets include:

  • Clear visibility of the incident
  • Speedy liability decisions 
  • Early intervention
  • Driver behaviour training 
  • Reduced costs due to efficient claim process

Once you receive the FNOL report, you’ll be in complete control of the insurance claim, helping to speed up the claims process with the other insured party.

You’ll also be able to provide support to your driver quickly, especially if they are on their own when the incident occurs, improving your duty of care responsibilities. 

For businesses running a number of vehicles, RAC Advance will help you reduce business costs, boost driver safety, support the need to provide duty of care and improve customer service. All by installing a small box in your vehicles.

For more information contact Tracey Speke:

Mobile: 07773 035055

Email: tspeke@rac.co.uk

Or go to: https://www.rac.co.uk/business/telematics