Fewer than one in four drivers (24%) are planning a journey by car over the festive period, a new survey suggests.
The AA said its research indicates there will be just 7.9 million motorists on the road this Christmas, compared with around 17 million last year.
The UK Government and devolved administrations have agreed a temporary easing of coronavirus restrictions, allowing three households to mix in a bubble from December 23 to 27.
The AA poll of 16,500 drivers indicated that December 24 will be the busiest day on the roads, with 48% of those planning a Christmas trip travelling on main roads or motorways on that day.
December 19 – the last Saturday before Christmas Day – is expected to be the worst day for shopping traffic.
Congestion hotspots over the festive period are expected near shopping centres close to motorways, such as Cribbs Causeway, Bristol; Blue Water, Kent; and the Trafford Centre, Manchester.
Traffic could be lighter than normal in town and city centres due to the cancellation of Christmas markets.
AA president Edmund King said many people are choosing not to travel over Christmas despite restrictions being eased as they are “wary of risk to their loved ones” or “unable to choose who to include in their small Christmas bubble”.
He went on: “With tier restrictions in place, many may opt to stay local, so we’d like to see councils remove as many roadworks as possible to help ease the flow of local traffic.
“We welcome efforts by Highways England to remove some 750 miles of roadworks on main roads and motorways.
“On balance, despite the reduced use of public transport and the five days of festive freedom, we don’t predict a total free-for-all on the roads.”