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2 December, 2011



This time of year there is increased congestion on all types of roads; Christmas shopping, families travelling away for the holiday break, and poor weather all contribute to extra traffic on the road.

Here are some useful tips to help you avoid the increase in journey times and frustration this can cause.

Journey planning

  • Wherever possible plan to avoid busy times of day.  Major congestion is caused by school/work related travel in the early morning and late afternoon/early evening, so avoid these times if you can.
  • Avoid specific areas where congestion is likely on the approach to Christmas, unless you need to drive there.  For example, town centres, out of town supermarkets and shopping centres.  Do your own shopping early!
  • Avoid specific days when travel will be at its heaviest, especially for long journeys.  For example, early Christmas Day is likely to be much less congested than Christmas Eve.
  • Plan your route before you start, particularly for long journeys.  Have an alternative in case your original route is blocked.  Make use of Sat-Nav systems, internet route planners, maps and consult the Highways Agency Information Line on  for updated information on likely congestion.
  • Build in additional time for your journey, especially for long distances.  Being early is better than becoming anxious and frustrated by worries about being late.

During the drive

  • Always keep a good space around your car and keep looking well ahead. This will give you good visibility and you will get early warning of congestion problems ahead.  Drive so that you can always stop in the distance you can see to be clear.
  • Be patient and don’t respond to any hostility from other drivers.  Reacting badly will only make the situation worse.
  • Some stretches of motorway have variable speed limits during times of congestion.  These appear on the gantries above the lanes and you must not exceed these limits.  They are designed to keep traffic moving at a constant flow and so avoid bunching and stopping/starting.
  • In shopping areas, drivers may be looking for parking spaces and may stop suddenly.  Roads around car parks may be partly blocked by traffic waiting for spaces.  Always anticipate other road users and plan accordingly.
  • Pedestrians may be concentrating on their shopping rather than the road, so be aware they may step into the road without looking properly.  At this time of year excited children may not take as much care as usual, so ensure you are alert at all times.
  • If you are in congested, slow moving traffic, watch for pedestrians stepping out between your car and the vehicle in front.
  • In congested traffic watch out for cyclists.  Especially look for them in your mirrors as they may be able to travel faster than you.  Allow them plenty of room.

Drive with extra caution during this winter weather.  Check out our previous blog posts about winter driving to ensure you are fully prepared before setting out on your journey.