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.”