Emergency services were gearing up yesterday for one of their busiest weekends of the year and made a special appeal to drivers.
After a spate of "road rage" incidents involving violence between motorists, psychologists warned people to "stay cool". The RAC issued an emergency "stress-busting" guide from its new command centre near Bristol.
It said drivers should listen to peaceful and relaxing music, monitor tension levels in their neck, shoulders and facial muscles, and accept that traffic jams were beyond their control.
But this offered little comfort to those stuck in a 20-mile tailback near Weston-super-Mare on the M5 yesterday as the holiday rush began.
A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said: "We meet people broken down on the hard shoulder who tell us they were here in the same spot at the same time last year."
The AA said drivers should expect long delays on popular routes, especially those serving coastal resorts.
Lengthy queues are predicted through the New Forest and on the M3, the M27 and the A303. Roads to Yorkshire and East Anglian resorts will also be badly clogged.
The AA said in the Midlands, junctions 5 and 6 of the M6 are worth avoiding, as are the Thelwall Viaduct on the M6 in Cheshire and the M90 in Scotland. "It's going to be busy, but as a lot of people left for their trips on Friday night. Saturday shouldn't be too awful," said AA spokesman Warren Lee.
"However Monday, with people coming home, will be a complete nightmare - it always is."
London was also badly hit by congestion yesterday as the exodus began.
Heavy traffic was reported on the M4 and to add to the chaos, Tube services were disrupted due to industrial action. The RMT union said less than a third of services ran on the Northern, Central, Victoria and Piccadilly lines.
Ports are expected to be busier than normal during the weekend, with fine weather forecast. The Meteorological Office predict a mainly dry weekend with some sunshine on Sunday and Monday.
As well as the those converging on Britain's seaside resorts this weekend, crowds were also gathering for a number of major events in London and Berkshire.
Around 60,000 rock fans are attend the Reading Rock Festival in Berkshire, headlined by veteran singer-guitarist Neil Young, while in west London, the annual Notting Hill Carnival will get under way this weekend with a total of 7,000 police officers on duty.
The celebrations, now in their 30th year, are expected to draw more a million revellers.Reuse content