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The bank holiday drivers’ get away – plan before you leave

The longer days and milder weather – usually flagged by bank holidays at this time of year – herald the first opportunities to get away from the routines of work and school.

A good time then to plan our precious time off. Maybe booking a hotel or campsite, arranging to meet up with friends and relatives or something different. Planning is important in all of this, but do we plan our travel as well as we should? We may plan better when it comes to public transport, where we need to buy tickets and get the best prices where possible. What about travelling on our roads? To many people planning doesn’t come into it – seemingly a turn up and go road network regardless of what is happening with incidents or roadworks. Nobody wants to use their time off stuck in queuing traffic on a motorway or major ‘A’ road, but can this be avoided with better planning? Are the tools available for road users to plan better?

Highways England offer a traffic planning website – Traffic England. It’s a site packed with information. But there are barriers to using it and we are working with Highways England to improve it on behalf of road users. For example, to find information on disruption on a particularly road, the number of that road must be fed into the search engine. So if your journey involves using a number of different roads then planning your journey on Traffic England quickly becomes a long and laborious task!

Also, accuracy on the site is an issue where road works are not kept up to date. We’ve spoken to companies in the freight industry who want to plan journeys but tell us that this is a problem they have with Traffic England – not a good endorsement from an important customer base. Road users need faith in the information provided.

In our recent incidents and roadworks research we have recommended that Highways England significantly improves the accuracy and clarity of roadworks information through their own channels such as their website or social media or through an ‘open data’ feed that others can use. We continue to work with Highways England in this area and we are constantly pushing for improvements on Traffic England on behalf of road users.

But, also, before you leave check your vehicle. This important step is now the focus of Highways England’s latest campaign. Many breakdowns on motorways are for preventable reasons. In the first two years of the M60/M62 smart motorways scheme in Manchester, 8716 vehicles had to be recovered. Of these 1593 had punctures and 651 ran out of fuell!

Everyone needs to play their part in keeping the roads moving. Drivers need to ensure that their vehicles are fit to drive on motorways and major ‘A’ roads, leaving genuine breakdowns to be recovered and cleared quickly.

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