Driving for the weekend? 04 Jan 2008

Twelfth Night this Sunday marks the end of the Christmas celebrations, but there are still reasons for motorists to be cheerful on the roads this weekend, according to new analysis released by the RAC Foundation today (4).

The RAC Foundation dossiers show that:-

  • January is the quietest month on the roads - traffic levels are 10 per cent below average levels for the year*
  • Weekend drivers enjoy freer-flowing traffic than their commuter counterparts, with traffic moving up to 10 per cent faster**.
  • Weekend drivers are at less risk of becoming a casualty - there are 9 per cent fewer deaths and injuries at the weekend than on an average weekday***

However, throughout the year, there are certain weekend driver habits that all drivers should be aware of. According to the RAC Foundation's analysis: "Friday's motorist is late to rise and Saturday's motorist drinks and drives, but the driver that rides on the seventh day, gets to cruise on the roads without much delay".

The RAC Foundation's fact file on weekend motoring:

  • Fridays are frantic and fatal - traffic levels are at an all time high on Fridays, with the afternoon scrum starting to develop from noon as half-day hurriers quit the office and head home**. Friday is still the most dangerous day to be out on the roads, with casualties hitting a peak of 3,766 at 5pm, compared to an average of 3,426 on other weekdays***.
  • Saturdays buzz with activity but also with booze - football fanatics, shopping addicts, ladies that lunch, DIYers and day-trippers shift Saturday's traffic peak to 12 noon** - also the peak hour for casualties, at 2,799***. Failed breath tests are most common on a Saturday, with 1,599 drivers and riders caught over the limit on Saturdays in 2006****. Drink-driving is at its highest in the small hours and early evening.
  • Sundays are sleepy and slow starting -pub lunchers, ramblers, Sunday roast reliants, family, friends and other visitors create twin traffic peaks at 1pm and 5pm**. HGVs take a well-earned day of rest, with goods traffic at just 25% of typical weekday levels**. Sundays are the safest days to drive, with some 12,000 fewer casualties than Friday's total***.

However, the special status of the weekend as a time for enjoying rather than enduring motoring may be under threat. Traffic on weekends has increased 13% between 2006 and 2007, while average weekend delays have increased by 9% on the slowest 10% of journeys**.

Sheila Rainger, Acting Director of the RAC Foundation said: "We often hear about the negatives of cars - and while congestion, pollution and casualty rates are problems which must be tackled, we shouldn't lose sight of the freedom and convenience offered by motoring.

"While weekend motoring is still a more relaxed, safer and more social affair than the workday commute, this is being challenged by rising levels of congestion, and a hard-core of drink-drivers who refuse to accept that they must leave the keys at home before partying.

"Motoring offers freedom and a fuller life, particularly to younger drivers and the retired. This needs to be recognised, both in transport planning and in enforcement, to ensure that driving, whether workday or weekend, stays as stress free, safe and enjoyable as possible throughout the rest of 2008."


* Average daily traffic flows by month: Table 3.1


** DfT: Road Statistics 2006: Traffic, Speeds and Congestion http://www.dft.gov.uk/162259/162469/221412/221546/226956/261695/roadstats06tsc.pdf

*** DfT: Road Casualties Great Britain 2006, table 29a http://www.dft.gov.uk/162259/162469/221412/221549/227755/rcgb2006v1.pdf

**** DfT: Road Casualties Great Britain 2006, table 37 http://www.dft.gov.uk/162259/162469/221412/221549/227755/rcgb2006v1.pdf