An estimated 18m leisure trips will be taken by car this weekend, 1.8m more than last year as drivers seek to make the most of what is the last bank holiday before Christmas in most of the UK, says RAC Breakdown.
Despite the summery weather taking a leave of absence, the figures suggest traffic could be bumper-to-bumper on some popular routes as families and friends embark on long weekends, bank holiday daytrips, or drive home from their summer staycations. The figures suggest a slight increase (up 1.8m) in trips compared to 2019, most likely as a result of more people returning from UK-based holidays this year.
Separate RAC research conducted at the start of August suggested a total of around 45m daytrips would be taken by drivers this month, with more than a quarter of drivers (28%) saying they planned on taking more daytrips than last year. The latest research suggests a large proportion of these trips might well be being taken this coming weekend.
RAC Breakdown spokesperson Rod Dennis said, “It’s been anything but a normal summer for so many reasons, but our research indicates that millions of us are still desperate to eke out the last of the summer and enjoy time away, whether that’s a day trip to see friends or family or a long weekend in a caravan or camping. In fact, it may even turn out to be busier on the roads than last year with many more people returning home this weekend after a staycation.
Friday is expected to see the largest volume of cars on the road with an estimated 5.6m separate trips planned, followed by Saturday (4.7m) and bank holiday Monday itself (4.4m). Sunday looks a little quieter with the equivalent of 3.7m leisure journeys by car expected.
“Both official Government statistics and our own data from insurance customers show that weekend traffic is now back to pre-lockdown levels. The numbers of people breaking down are also around where we would expect them to be for late August. It’s clear therefore that despite the pandemic, the car has been a vital part of making sure many people have been able to enjoy the summer safely.
“Key to getting as much out of the bank holiday weekend as possible will be drivers arriving at their destinations when they plan to. While some queues on popular stretches of road, especially to tourist hotspots, will likely lead to some delays a breakdown has the potential to cause far more problems for people.
“Our teams will be working incredibly hard to rescue drivers who run into trouble, but in so many cases breakdowns can be avoided. A quick check of a car’s ‘vitals’ – tyre pressure and tread, oil and coolant levels – can make the difference between a smooth trip or one blighted by a breakdown. It’s also very important those towing caravans and trailers complete a range of checks, too.”
Ian Hewlett, technical manager at The Camping and Caravanning Club, which partners with the RAC to provide the specialist RAC Arrival breakdown policy, said, “When towing remember not to exceed the maximum speed limit on motorways of 60mph, or slower on other road types. Travelling a little slower can save you fuel, while taking regular breaks helps to keep you fresh and focussed as well as making the journey more pleasant for everyone.”
Popular destinations in Wales such as Gower, Pembrokeshire and North Wales will be very busy if the weekend weather is as good as predicted so drivers are advised to check the web for updates, stagger journey times if possible and be prepared for long queues at pinch-points in the roads network. It goes without saying their car, caravan or trailer must be checked over and fluid levels topped up to minimise breakdowns due to neglect.
The majority of holidaymakers will shun flights, trains and buses this year with 83% planning on driving to their holiday destination, according to research by comparethemarket.com.
The statistics indicate significant concerns resulting from coronavirus, as it continues to dissuade people from flying. Household financial confidence is also impacting the decision to opt for cars over aeroplanes this summer.
Worry around catching coronavirus on public transport is the main reason people are keen to drive on holiday this year, with 44% saying that health reasons are their biggest concern. However, the potential headache of rearranging holiday plans at the last minute has also contributed to the household preference for driving, so that families have more flexibility if they suddenly have to rethink their trip.
Some 28% of people said that by driving to their destination they can get home quicker if more destinations are added to the quarantine list. There is also significant concern around potential cancellations; 22% are worried that flights could be cancelled, while 20% are concerned that trains or buses would be cancelled.
About 40% of people have opted to drive to their destination this year simply because it is far cheaper than other forms of transport and comparethemarket.com’s Household Financial Confidence Tracker shows that household budgets are particularly stretched at the moment due to the impact of COVID-19; 21% are not confident they can stay on top of household finances in the current climate and 30% have already taken steps to cut down expenditure.