Christmas traffic: Study reveals the best time to drive as 21m hit the road

AROUND 21 million trips will be made in the great Christmas getaway of 2023, according to a new study.

Drivers are planning journeys in the festive period in the last week before the big day, with 60% (12.6 million) crammed into the final three days before December 25.

The figures come from a survey of 2,100 drivers by the RAC and transport analytics firm, INRIX.

With Christmas falling on a Monday in 2023, figures show leisure traffic levels will climb slowly the week before, then jump by a whopping 43% from 2.2m on Thursday (December 21) to 3.2m on Friday.

Between December 22 and Christmas Eve, there are set to be an estimated 13.5m trips, up 20% on the same period last year.

The companies said that although Christmas Eve getaways match ‘Frantic Friday’ (December 22) trips – at 3.2m – Friday will be far busier, as those heading off for festivities share the roads with commuters and parents collecting children from school.

Roads will also be busy on Christmas Day and Boxing Day with an average of 3.5m trips expected, but serious delays should be less of a risk without the normal mix of commercial, commuter and school traffic, the analysis said.

The worst traffic queues, bringing delays of up to an hour, are expected along the M25 clockwise between the M23 for Gatwick and M40 for Birmingham on December 23, the survey warned.

Meanwhile, drivers heading anti-clockwise between J17 and J12 on the same day should also prepare for longer waits, of around half an hour.

Further afield, the M1 north between Woburn and Daventry, and the M6 south from Wigan to Stafford, will be hit the hardest with delays in the run-up to Christmas Day.

The survey said how most major routes during the pre-Christmas weekend will be busiest between noon and 2pm, with the best times to travel being before 11am and after 6pm on both December 22 and 23.

RAC Breakdown spokesperson, Alice Simpson, said: “Since Christmas falls on a Monday this year, there’s no need for drivers to use annual leave for getaway trips as they can travel over the weekend before.

“For that very reason, our research suggests these days will be the busiest times to drive, so we urge people to set off as early as possible on Saturday and Sunday.”

Bob Pishue, INRIX transportation analyst, added: “On average, drivers could see travel times up to 20% longer this holiday season, while travellers around Greater London could experience more than double typical drive times.

“Our recommendation is to avoid peak commuting hours and use traffic apps to minimise holiday travel traffic frustrations.”

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