TRAVEL chaos has started today as 18.4million cars hit the road for the Bank Holiday weekend.
Brits are revelling in the last few days of the summer holidays with 13.3 million planning overnight stints on UK shores – 42 per cent of sunseekers country-wide.
But "big delays" are predicted up and down the country, as drivers are urged to check their cars are fully functioning before venturing out.
Countless Britons are opting for staycations this year, as Covid tests and quarantine continues to make overseas travel less appealing.
The number of people staying overnight at the UK's holiday hotspots is up on 37 per cent in 2020 – and matching pre-pandemic figures in 2019, AA statistics show.
Overall – including those who will be doing normal weekend travel – UK roads will have to cope with 18.4 million cars on the move at some stage over the three days, figures revealed.
And traffic is likely to be concentrated closer to home as Brits opt for local destinations over journeys further afar.
Transport analytics firm Inrix said motorists should set off in the morning or after 7pm to miss major traffic jams.
The South West is expected to bear the brunt of the traffic over the weekend – with journey times on classic holiday routes such as the M5 and A303 more than doubling at certain times.
In 2019, 23 per cent set out on road trips of 50 miles or more, with the figure standing at 13 per cent this year – up on the 9 per cent in 2020.
AA president Edmund King said: “Weather is always a big decider on where people spend their bank holiday.
"However, AA research suggests that local traffic may be heavier this time.
“There are likely to be big delays on the roads where holiday traffic mixes with sporting or shopping day-trippers.
"Drivers are advised to check their cars before venturing out.
“Covid’s disruption to people’s lives is still noticeable in the 10 per cent fewer long-distance trippers this August.
"The drop in longer trips might be due to the difficulty in booking accommodation away from home due to more families taking their holidays in the UK.
“Journeys have not yet returned to pre-lockdown patterns."
As it stands, car travel since the easing of restrictions is 95 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, according to Government statistics.
RAC Breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis said: "It's been an incredibly busy summer on the UK's roads with vast numbers of people on the move both for staycation holidays and for day trips to the sea and countryside.
"Our figures suggest this is a trend that will continue, with bumper-to-bumper bank holiday traffic expected, especially on the most popular holiday routes.
"While this weekend will see many people returning from summer holidays in the UK, the fine and settled weather will also be seen as an opportunity by lots of people to jump in their cars for last-minute trips – after all, this is the last bank holiday weekend in England, Wales and Northern Ireland before Christmas."
Mr Dennis urged motorists to carry out essential checks on their car, such as ensuring tyres are properly inflated and have plenty of tread, and that oil, coolant and screenwash are at the correct levels.
Inrix analyst Bob Pishue said: "Drivers hitting the road for one last getaway before the end of summer should expect long delays on key corridors.
"Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.
"Our advice is to avoid travelling in the afternoon. Leave early in the day or be prepared for some travel times to double."
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