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Traffic jams expected on roads in Europe: airport strikes a factor
Nearly 8 in 10 Belgians are planning to go abroad for their holidays this summer, according to the Touring vacation barometer, but unrest in the aviation sector is prompting many of those travellers to take the car rather than risk a cancelled flight.
The Belgian motorists association (VAB) warns that “black Saturdays” have arrived. These are days when traffic jams are so prominent, motorways resemble a solid black line due to the quantity of cars at a standstill en route to holiday destinations.
“We expect a very busy summer on the roads,” Mich Vergauwen of VAB told VRT.
“We notice that the Flemish people are very fond of travelling, especially by car. The car vacation remains a safe haven, despite the high fuel prices.”
VAB says that those who choose to travel by car in order to avoid problems with flights should take into account heavy traffic, in particular on Saturdays and “especially in Germany, because the summer vacations are starting there in many regions, and also in Switzerland due to the closure of the Gotthard tunnel”.
Many countries in Europe stagger the start of school vacations and other long holidays to some extent in order to prevent mass-scale congestion issues, but mid-summer inevitably proves to be a popular time for vacations Europe-wide.
Tips and advice for those travelling by car
The motorists association and VRT offered tips for people who are planning to take their car on holiday, including a suggestion to split journeys into two parts: drive halfway to the destination on Friday and stay in a budget hotel, then drive the final leg very early in the morning on Saturday to avoid afternoon traffic.
They also suggested booking holidays outside of weekends, for example from a Monday to the following Monday, and avoiding overnight drives, popular with families hoping their children will sleep through the trip.
“A lot of Flemish people do that, but we advise against it,” Vergauwen said. “It's unsafe.”
Research by Belgian traffic institute Vias indicates that a quarter of people who drive through the night sometimes doze off and 15% have drifted into the hard shoulder. If people do choose to drive at night, they’re encouraged to take breaks every two hours, stretch their legs and rotate drivers when possible.
“In a parking lot, take a nap of no more than 15 minutes,” VRT advises. “And feel free to drink an espresso before your nap: the caffeine doesn't take effect until 20 minutes, after your nap, ideally.”
Motorists are also advised to check the traffic laws in their destination country, as these vary across Europe. For example, in Germany, a safe distance between cars on the highway is enforced through the use of cameras and drones and in France, certain navigation apps that alert drivers to speed traps are banned.
Travellers can check which times and weekends are the busiest on the road on VAB’s dedicated webpage, which is listed by country.