Prepare yourself for ‘carmageddon’ this Bank Holiday exacerbated by poor driving standards - Jayne Dowle

Brace yourself for ‘carmageddon’ today with drivers warned to expect chaos on the roads as more than 18m car trips will set off when many kids break up from school.

“With Easter falling earlier than usual at the start of the school holidays, it could be carmageddon for holidaymakers,” says RAC breakdown spokesperson Alice Simpson. Whilst the RAC’s forecast is less – it’s reckoning on around 14m car trips against the AA’s 18.5m – the message is the same. It’s going to be madness out there.

“Lengthy queues can be expected along routes to the usual hotspots like the West Country, the Lake District and the South Coast, especially during the middle of the day when most people make trips,” warns Ms Simpson, who adds that it could get even busier if the sun decides to make an appearance.

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She doesn’t highlight our region, but anyone who has been stuck on the A64 heading to Scarborough or Whitby will know that this Bank Holiday blackspot has blighted many a family outing.

Cars lined up in traffic. PIC: Alamy/PA.Cars lined up in traffic. PIC: Alamy/PA.
Cars lined up in traffic. PIC: Alamy/PA.

If you’re heading away, the advice from motoring organisations is to set off as early in the morning as possible, or hold off your trip until later in the day, to avoid adding to the congestion.

Sensible advice, but it’s closer to home I’m more worried about right now. Perhaps I’m getting older and more risk-averse, but every time I go out in my car, the roads seem more dangerous.

What is wrong with people? Don’t they realise that when they’re behind the wheel they’re in charge of a huge lump of metal with potential to kill? And worryingly, it’s the local and A roads rather than motorways where I’m seeing the most dangerous examples of reckless driving.

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Even a simple trip to the shops can involve tailgating cars speeding past other drivers, taking the other side of the road and clearly ignoring any speed limit signs – or even speed cameras – and a complete lack of indication, especially on roundabouts and at crossroads.

I know I passed my driving test way back in the 1990s, but until recently I hadn’t realised that automatically signalling to turn left or right would now appear to be as outdated as using a quill and ink to sign a letter.

Only last Saturday afternoon, there was a fatal crash here in Barnsley, at Barugh Green crossroads, a few miles from where we live.

My 18-year-old daughter, who regularly drives this way to visit her boyfriend near Holmfirth, has been noticeably shaken by the knowledge that people have lost their lives on what appears to be a fairly unassuming stretch of road.

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But, as I said to her, we take our lives in our hands every time we leave the house these days. Or do we? It will be interesting to see the latest 2023 official road casualty figures when they are released.

Since 1979, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) there has been a general downward trend in the number of people killed on roads in Great Britain with a flatter trend in the decade since 2010.

However, ONS figures for 2022, the latest set available, suggest that road casualties showed signs of a return to pre-pandemic trends, increasing compared to 2020 and 2021 when casualty numbers were low. This was largely as a result of periods of lockdown leading to a reduction in road traffic.

In 2022, there were a reported 1,711 fatalities, a decline of 2 per cent compared to 2019, and a total of 29,742 killed or seriously injured casualties, a decline of 3 per cent compared to 2019.

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Overall, there were 135,480 casualties of all severities, a decline of 12 per cent compared to 2019.

A female driving instructor I know despairs. She says that since the pandemic she’s definitely noticed a deterioration in driver behaviour – and she should know, as she spends all of her working day on the road. “It’s as if people just don’t care anymore,” she says. “They just take risks and speed and have no consideration for other people at all.”

It's this kind of attitude that Huddersfield-based road safety charity Brake campaigns to change, through hard-hitting work in communities and during its annual Road Safety Week, appealing to all demographics but especially the young, to cut speed and address bad driving habits.

If you have a new driver in your family, or even an older driver who might benefit from learning a few stark truths, direct them towards its website. I once saw a Brake video of the heartbreaking aftermath of a teenage-driven pile-up and I can never unsee it, as my kids have been reminded time and again.

Meanwhile, stay safe on the roads this Easter Bank Holiday weekend, and pray that other drivers put safety first too.

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