RAC warns of jams on summer’s Frantic Friday – here are the best times to travel

The RAC is reminding drivers to prepare for long delays this weekend as UK roads gear up for the start of the school holidays.

Motorists are expected to make over nine million individual leisure journeys by car over the weekend, leading to long queues across England and Wales.

RAC has teamed up with INRIX to find out exactly how busy the roads will be and their research suggests Friday will see the most jams as drivers make an estimated 3.8m leisure trips – a day dubbed ‘Frantic Friday.’

Bank holiday traffic

Busiest days and times to travel

DayNumber of cars on the roadWorst times to travelBest times to travelWorst roads for delays
Friday 20 July3.8 million2pm to 5.30pm7pm to 9pmM40 south, J3a to J1a: 1hr 30min delay at lunchtime M5 south, J12 to J31: 1hr 17min delay late afternoon M5 north, J31 to J12: 1hr 9min delay mid-afternoon A303, M3 to A37: 52min delay late afternoon
Saturday 21 July3.2 million11.30am to 1pm7am to 9amM25 anticlockwise, J23 to J16: 40min delay early afternoon M1 north, J6 to J23a: 20min delay late afternoon
Sunday 22 July2.2 million12pm to 1pm7am to 9amM25 anticlockwise, J23 to J16: 30min delay at lunchtime M40 south, J3a to J1a: 20min delay late afternoon

Longest delays by area

*Mobile users might want to turn their device to the side for a better view of the table

RegionLocationBetweenAndPeak trafficPredicted travel timeDelay
London & South EastM40 SouthJunction 3AJunction 1A20/07/2018  12.302 hrs & 44 mins1 hrs & 30 mins
South WestM5 SouthJunction 12Junction 3120/07/2018  17.453 hrs & 35 mins1 hrs & 17 mins
South WestM5 NorthJunction 31Junction 1220/07/2018  15.303 hrs & 13 mins1 hrs & 9 mins
South WestA303 WestM3A3720/07/2018  17.152 hrs & 33 mins52 mins
South West & WalesM4 WestJunction 18Junction 2320/07/2018  15.151 hrs & 35 mins46 mins
West Midlands & North WestM6 SouthJunction 20Junction 820/07/2018  15.152 hrs & 21 mins44 mins
South East & East MidlandsM1 NorthJunction 6Junction 23A20/07/2018  14.302 hrs & 49 mins36 mins
South WestA303 EastA37M320/07/2018  15.152 hrs & 6 mins35 mins
WalesSwanseaJunction 44Cardiff Rd20/07/2018  13.301 hrs & 19 mins23 mins
WalesM4 Cardiff/NewPortA4055M4820/07/2018  15:30:001 hrs & 22 mins23 mins
London & South EastM25 ClockwiseJunction 16Junction 2320/07/2018  16.3058 mins18 mins
South EastA34 SouthM40Marcham Rd20/07/2018  11.3030 mins12 mins
YorkshireA64 NorthA19Mains Ln/ Barton Hill20/07/2018  16.4529 mins3 mins

If possible it would be worth searching for alternative routes on our Route Planner to try and avoid these hotspots, however, some drivers will find these roads unavoidable.

Drivers should expect gridlock, warning that delays could be even worse next weekend (July 27-29).

READ MORE: The RAC's ultimate fuel saving guide

RAC Traffic Spokesman Rod Dennis said this weekend tends to be one of the busiest on the roads for leisure journeys, usually second only to Easter and Christmas.

“On some popular routes, this may well mean gridlock, especially through the second half of Friday when commuters and holidaymakers will be sharing space on the same stretches of the UK’s roads,” he said.

“As a result, it will almost certainly feel like a ‘frantic Friday’ for some.

“The next peak after this weekend will be Saturday 28 July according to our research, by which time the vast majority of schools in England and Wales will have broken up for the summer.

“And if the weather remains fine, that could lead to many more people deciding to jump in the car to enjoy a short notice ‘staycation’, adding to the weight of traffic.”

SEE ALSO: The real causes of motorway traffic and how to stop it

Popular holiday routes are likely to be worst hit by congestion, with those heading south on the M5 between Gloucester and Devon facing average delays of around an hour and a quarter.

The A303 heading west between the M3 in Hampshire and the A37 in Somerset is also expected to be busy with holidaymakers heading to the West Country, where delays of around an hour are anticipated.

On these routes a single breakdown could cause further delays for motorists, so make sure your vehicle is not at fault for any queues by reading our summer car maintenance checklist.

READ MORE: How to avoid a summer breakdown

Important pre-journey car checks

It is crucial to make these checks ahead of any long journeys this weekend. Quick and simple checks beforehand could avoid a breakdown and save you a great deal of time and hassle on your journey.

Here's a quick summary from the video:

  • Check oil and coolant levels following the instructions in the owner's handbook
  • Check the condition of the tyres, (including the spare, if you have one) for correct pressures and legal tread depth. The current minimum legal tread depth for cars and light commercial vehicles (up to 3500 kg gvw') is 1.6mm
  • Make sure the jack and wheel brace are in correct working order. If locking wheel nuts are fitted, ensure the locking key is stored safely in the vehicle. It may be useful to practice changing the spare wheel, following instructions from your owner's handbook
  • Have the cooling system checked. A puddle of clear water underneath when stopped is normal for vehicles with air conditioning, but a leaking cooling system or inoperative cooling fan could cause the vehicle to overheat and cause extensive damage to the engine
  • If you plan to take a caravan or trailer, check the tyre condition and make sure the lights are working - read our complete guide on towing first
  • Check all the exterior lights and dashboard warning lights are working correctly, including on a trailer or caravan
  • Never overload your vehicle or caravan beyond their designed carrying capacity
  • Have your car serviced regularly. Although this sounds obvious, many people don’t and it really does help to prevent future car problems.  Especially before long journeys, or journeys where you’re likely to get stuck in traffic.  This is important and can help avoid a breakdown
  • Check all wiper blades for wear or splitting, check the windscreen washer fluid level and check that the washer jets are adjusted correctly

MORE ADVICE: Five most common summer breakdowns (and how to avoid them)

Things to pack

There are a number of things you should take with you, firstly for your and your passengers' road safety, but also in case you find yourself stuck in traffic and are in need of provisions.

  • A fully charged mobile phone
  • Warm clothes or rain macs - if you breakdown by the side of the road and it begins pouring down with rain, you'll be grateful
  • Plenty of drinking water
  • Food and snacks and even a flask of tea
  • A spare set of keys with you in case you accidently lock yourself out or lose them
  • A first aid kit
  • A high quality torch, preferably with long life and spare batteries
  • A warning triangle
  • A high visibility vest/jacket
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A spare, empty fuel can
  • A light bulb kit
  • Additional engine oil and water (for topping up)
  • An up to date road map or sat navigation system

VIDEO: how to pack for a road trip