DRIVERS heading out this weekend are being warned to brace themselves for a “nightmare start” to the holidays - as nearly half of those holidaying in the UK head south.

Traffic information company Inrix is warning that today is set to be one of the busiest days of the year on the roads, with the big getaway at the start of the school summer holidays getting under way.

With the current hot weather, roads in and out of Dorset are set to be packed with both those heading for the coast and those venturing away on holiday.

The A31, A35 and the A338 Bournemouth Spur Road are expected to be among the busiest routes as people head for the sun.

Thousands are expected to flock to Bournemouth and Poole, with the weather forecast set to stay hot this weekend - a survey carried out by Kwik Fit showed that 28 per cent of those holidaying in Britain planned to head to the south west, while 21 per cent are aiming for the south coast.

Gary Powell, parking and traffic manager at Bournemouth Borough Council, said: “In terms of keeping traffic flowing, we have a number of measures in place, which are monitored from our Traffic Control Centre, such as vehicle messaging signs, car park occupancy, traffic signal control and co-ordination.

“We try to inform the public of any events or issues on the highway as soon as possible, through messaging signs and social media. These are in place all year round, but are especially important during the summer.

“In support of this, we ensure that road works are kept to a minimum and are restricted to essential or emergency works during these peak periods. We work closely with the statutory undertakers and our own highways department to try and keep disruption to a minimum during this time when we see increased number on our roads. We also work with neighbouring authorities.”

He reminded people to prepare for their journeys by making sure that their cars were properly maintained and to carry plenty of water.

Andrew Martin, Dorset County Council's head of highways, added: “Our on-call team are ready to keep Dorset's highways clear and to keep drivers moving.

“We work closely with Dorset Police and utilities companies to ensure that closures and roadworks don't cause too much inconvenience.

“Motorists can also check routes using traveldorset, online or on twitter to avoid busy roads. But roads are likely to be busier during warm weather, particularly around the coast and beaches. If you can, stagger your journey or even delay it to avoid travelling at the busiest times.”

Inrix says that the first major jams are expected tomorrow and then the five following Saturdays are expected to be the most-congested days.

The firm said that roads were likely to be 25 per cent busier than usual, with an example journey of an hour taking 90 minutes.

Chris Lambert, of Inrix, said: “With more cars on the UK's roads than ever before, the unwary traveller could face many hours stuck in queues with the potential for missed flights or ferries - a nightmare start to any holiday.

“Summer Saturday traffic can be far busier than even the very worst weekday rush hour, which shows the scale of the problem facing drivers this summer.

“Drivers should plan their journeys carefully and make them at the quietest times of day.”

RAC spokesman Simon Williams added: “With the length of the summer holidays providing people with plenty of choice as to when they go away, we would expect to see motorists hitting the road over a longer period of time, rather than a big rush to get away.

“However, the unpredictable nature of the British summer weather is likely to be a big influence and if the sunshine decides to come out this weekend thousands will head to coastal areas to make the most of the weather.”

With families hitting the road this weekend, Wimborne-based firm Autoglaze is warning motorists against harmful UVA and UVB rays.

Duncan Graham, MD at Autoglaze, said: “It's a common misperception that car windows block out the sun's harmful UV rays - they don't. While windscreens offer some protection, a car's side and rear windows are relatively unprotected - approximately 80 per cent of the Sun's UVA Rays penetrate a cars window.

“Even if your car is fitted with factory privacy glass it won't have the protection of professional films.”

Autoglaze has also issued some tips to stay safe in the car.

  • Use sun cream every two hours.
  • Close the sun roof, or wear a long-sleeved top and hat if you want it open.
  • Long-sleeved tops will protect children in particular.
  • Keep hydrated - take plenty of water.
  • Use car window tints to cut out harmful UV rays.