DRIVERS are expected to make more than 12 million journeys this weekend as schools break up for the summer – with the M5 in Somerset a predicted traffic hotspot.
The beginning of the summer holidays in England and Wales means families across the countries will be hitting the road, according to the RAC.
The motoring group estimates 12.6m getaway trips will be made by car this coming weekend (July 21-23).
Saturday is expected to see the largest volume of leisure travellers on the road, with the RAC’s research of 2,249 UK drivers indicating as many as 3.1m separate trips could be taken – around 600,000 more than the next busiest day, Sunday (2.5m trips).
Friday will see up to 2.3m leisure trips made by drivers, with around 1.6m planning to get away ahead of the rush by heading out on Thursday.
An estimated additional 4.8m journeys will be taken at some point between Friday and the end of Sunday.
While the overall trips are down compared to last year, the total anticipated number of getaway journeys over the whole weekend, including Friday, is above the pre-pandemic average.
The M5 through Somerset and into the south west is among roads expected to be affected by the increase, with traffic warnings from transport experts, INRIX.
The firm said extra jams of up to 45 minutes are expected on Friday on the M5 heading south between J15 near Bristol and J23 for Bridgwater – one of the most important holiday routes in the country.
INRIX advises drivers to avoid using major roads between late morning and early evening between Thursday and Sunday, with the best times to travel on these days generally being before 8am in the morning, or after 7pm.
RAC Breakdown spokesperson, Rod Dennis, said: “There’s no doubting the UK remains an ever-popular holiday destination with millions of drivers expected to take to the roads at the end of this week as schools in England and Wales close for summer.
“With the West Country leading the pack when it comes to the most popular part of the country to visit, it means routes heading south and west are likely to encounter some of the longest queues.
“Anyone using the M5 southbound from Bristol should anticipate bumper-to-bumper traffic, with those travelling outside peak periods most likely to have a better journey.
“We’re seeing an enormous increase in breakdowns this year as drivers dependent on their vehicles for leisure and work contend with cripplingly high prices, leading to some scrimping on car maintenance as a result. It’s for this reason we’re urging drivers to take action to avoid a summer surge of breakdowns.
“No driver set off before a long journey without carrying out a few basic checks to ensure their cars have got the right levels of oil and coolant, as well as making sure all tyres have plenty of tread and are properly inflated.”
Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, added: “With millions of trips expected on the roads this getaway period, drivers should be prepared for above-average delays to their favourite destinations. Planning ahead, using traffic apps, and keeping tuned in to local traffic broadcasts are key to minimising frustrations this getaway period.”
And Met Office spokesperson Stephen Dixon said the weather might not be everything holidaymakers would like.
“The weather outlook for the weekend is for an unsettled period of weather to continue, with the UK under the influence of low pressure,” he said.
“Friday will likely see sunshine and showers for many, with some longer periods of rain possible on Saturday, especially in western areas.”