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What’s that coming over the hill? Is it a monster? Not quite, although with nearly 12 million drivers rushing to their destination, Christmas 2016 has the potential to become a bit of a beast for anyone on the roads over the festive period. To help you plan any trips by car, these are the hot spots that the traffic experts expect to see. And we name the two essential apps for route planning and real-time traffic reports.
Peak traffic will be on Friday 16th December
If you haven’t checked your diary yet, Christmas day falls on a Sunday. Experts predict this means that there will be a stampede of cars on the Friday week preceding it.
The usual Friday evening rush hour will combine will a huge number of people setting off with bagfuls of freshly wrapped Christmas jumpers, themed socks and flashing ties, to spend a well-earned break with friends and family.
Inrix, a company that specialises in the measurement of traffic on roads, has looked at traffic volumes from 2011, the last time Christmas day was on a Sunday. It says that Friday 16th December was the worst time for traffic.
Greg Hallsworth, UK traffic analyst at INRIX, warns of the high increase in delivery vehicles clogging up roads before Christmas: “There will be significant disruptions on the road due to the regular post-work peak, the start of the school holidays and people heading home for Christmas, as well as the number of delivery vehicles making their drop offs as ecommerce in the UK reaches a record high.”
The second busiest day will be Tuesday 20th December
Don’t expect things to get quiet in the week running up to Christmas day. Inrix says historic trends suggest there will be a second rise in traffic on Britain’s roads on Tuesday 20th December.
In the South of the country, this will partly be fueled by a strike on the Southern rail network. The ongoing dispute has already caused chaos for hundreds of thousands of commuters in the South East.
The AA believes Friday 23rd December will see 12 million cars hit the roads
If you’re planning to squeeze the last presents into the car’s boot and take to the road on Friday 23rd December, the chances are you won’t be alone.
The AA asked over 19,300 members when they planned to drive this Christmas. A hefty 41% said it would be Friday. So be prepared and line up a playlist for your journey. We’ve got some great suggestions for the catchiest Christmas songs here
What about roadworks?
Roadworks? What roadworks? Oh, you mean those roadworks, covering most of the UK’s, er, roads… Well, there’s a tiny bit of good news. Highways England says it will complete or lift 448 miles of roadworks by 6am on 23rd December. We’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that promise.
In the meantime, Inrix has composed a handy list of roads that will be affected by roadworks, and estimates of associated delays.
Google and Microsoft Maps are a driver’s best friend
If you’re still listening out for traffic bulletins on the radio, you need to move with the times. Apple and Android smartphones can run Google and Microsoft Maps which do a lot more than simply navigate drivers from A to B: they feature live traffic information, so anyone can see exactly what the road ahead holds.
They take data from the roadside cameras and from real-time users of their apps to provide immediate information to you, the user. They’ll alert you to traffic, ask if you’d like to accept a detour (and tell you how much time the detour will save as opposed to sitting in top to tail traffic) and guide you every step of the way with spoken and visual instructions. Best of all, they’re free.
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