An estimated 18m leisure trips will be taken by car this weekend, 1.8m more than last year as drivers seek to make the most of what is the last bank holiday before Christmas in most of the UK, new research from RAC Breakdown suggests.

Despite the summery weather taking a leave of absence, the figures suggest traffic could be bumper-to-bumper on some popular routes as families and friends embark on long weekends, bank holiday daytrips, or drive home from their summer staycations. The figures suggest a slight increase (up 1.8m) in trips compared to 2019, most likely as a result of more people returning from UK-based holidays this year.

Friday is expected to see the largest volume of cars on the road with an estimated 5.6m separate trips planned, followed by Saturday (4.7m) and bank holiday Monday itself (4.4m). Sunday looks a little quieter with the equivalent of 3.7m leisure journeys by car expected.

Separate RAC research conducted at the start of August suggested a total of around 45m daytrips would be taken by drivers this month, with more than a quarter of drivers (28%) saying they planned on taking more daytrips than last year. The latest research suggests a large proportion of these trips might well be being taken this coming weekend.

RAC Breakdown spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “It’s been anything but a normal summer for so many reasons, but our research indicates that millions of us are still desperate to eke out the last of the summer and enjoy time away, whether that’s a day trip to see friends or family or a long weekend in a caravan or camping. In fact, it may even turn out to be busier on the roads than last year with many more people returning home this weekend after a staycation.

“Both official Government statistics and our own data from insurance customers show that weekend traffic is now back to pre-lockdown levels. The numbers of people breaking down are also around where we would expect them to be for late August. It’s clear therefore that despite the pandemic, the car has been a vital part of making sure many people have been able to enjoy the summer safely.

“Our teams will be working incredibly hard to rescue drivers who run into trouble, but in so many cases breakdowns can be avoided. A quick check of a car’s ‘vitals’ – tyre pressure and tread, oil and coolant levels – can make the difference between a smooth trip or one blighted by a breakdown. It’s also very important those towing caravans and trailers complete a range of checks, too.”