Drivers are planning just 5.6m trips by car to see friends and family this Easter when Covid restrictions allow, the lowest number since the RAC began tracking motorists’ plans in 2014, new figures show.*
Despite the easing of the national lockdown on Monday when the two household and ‘rule of 6’ regulations come in, the RAC Breakdown survey of 1,200 drivers suggests many people remain cautious about meeting up over Easter, with 25% saying they are not planning a trip specifically because of the pandemic. Of those who will be driving to see family and friends outdoors, Good Friday looks to be the most popular day with the equivalent of 2m separate journeys taking place, followed by Saturday and Easter Sunday (1.3m per day).
The figures suggest however there is a prospect of a ‘late Easter surge’ with a rise in trips being taken during the second week of the school holidays, peaking on Monday 12 April – which is the earliest day that restrictions may be eased further and could see the re-opening of self-catered holiday accommodation, as well as outdoor attractions such as zoos and theme parks. Between Friday 9 April and Sunday 11 April drivers are planning 5.3m separate leisure journeys, rising to 2.3m alone on the Monday before tailing off during the remainder of the week.
If traffic does increase around this time, data from transportation analytics specialists INRIX suggests that some of the busiest roads could be the A303 near Stonehenge, the A3 and A205 in south London, the A66 near Keswick and the M5 in north Somerset.
The RAC is reminding all drivers who will be out and about over Easter to ensure they’ve checked over their cars thoroughly to reduce the chances of a breakdown, something that is more important than ever this year given the fact many people are not driving nearly as much at the moment. Under the bonnet, oil, coolant, brake fluid and screenwash levels should all be checked, along with making sure all tyres are damage-free, have plenty of tread and are inflated to the right levels.
RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis said: “What is traditionally one of the busiest weekends for leisure trips in normal times could turn out to be anything but in 2021, with the pandemic continuing to have a big impact on drivers’ plans to see friends and family this Easter. The fact that meetings among family members or friends must be outdoors is very clearly on drivers’ minds.
“Nonetheless, it’s unlikely the roads will be empty of traffic over Easter, and if the weather turns out to be good more people will inevitably jump in their cars for a trip at short notice, even if that’s just among members of the same household. And of course, just a single breakdown or collision on a major road could then lead to some jams.
“Looking forward, we’re expecting to see greater numbers of people on the roads the weekend after Easter. Drivers have clearly got their eyes on Monday 12 April which is the earliest date when lockdown restrictions could be eased further, and could be the day zoos, theme parks and other attractions reopen along with non-essential retail outlets and some self-catering holiday accommodation. If the day does get confirmed by the Government, and it coincides with fine weather, there’s every chance we could see a real ‘rush’ on the roads in some parts of the country.
“It’s vital anyone planning on driving gives their car the usual once over before setting out. Cars that are low on oil or coolant, or have damaged or under-inflated tyres, are much more likely to break down so spending a few minutes checking these things can help ensure a stress and trouble-free trip.”
* Research conducted among 1,200 UK drivers, between 17 and 24 March 2021