Drivers are being urged not to travel today on ‘frantic Friday' when there will be a traffic nightmare ahead of Christmas.

People heading home for Christmas will cross paths with the last of this year's commuter traffic.

Today is expected to see 1.25 million leisure journeys on top of those leaving work and the RAC is urging people not to travel if they don’t have to.

Drivers embarking on the Christmas getaway have until lunchtime to avoid severe jams on many roads, a traffic expert has warned.

Dr Graham Cookson, chief economist at transportation analysts Inrix, said many motorists will find themselves stuck in long queues from Friday afternoon onwards.

He said it will be one of the worst days of the year on the roads with "incredibly severe" traffic jams.

He told the Press Association: "After lunch most of the roads will get busier and stay busy into the evening.

"What we see is roads in congestion for most of the time, average speeds very slow, people crawling along.

"The pure weight of traffic means a lot of motorways will be much slower than normal so your total journey takes so much longer."

Asked which routes will see the longest queues this year, Dr Cookson replied: "Unfortunately any of the major motorways. It's tricky to avoid."

He said the M25 is "right at the top of the list", warning that "it doesn't matter which way you're going round it".

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As many as 11.5 million festive getaway trips are expected before Christmas Day, with Christmas Eve the anticipated peak time for congestion.

The day before Christmas will see an expected 1.87 million separate leisure journeys as people visit family and friends.

The period between 10am and 2pm will be the busiest times to travel so plan your drive carefully.

Highways England has announced that 99 per cent of England’s motorways and major A-roads will be free of roadworks during the busy festive run-in.

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But RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis reminds drivers “it only takes a single accident or breakdown in some locations to bring traffic grinding to a halt.”

Mr Dennis said: “As always, the message to drivers is to plan ahead and try to avoid peak times if you can."

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The RAC anticipates a fairly even spread of pre-Christmas traffic, averaging out at 1.4 million getaways each day until Saturday.

Boxing Day is likely to see a high concentration of traffic – with as many as 5.3 million separate journeys planned due to people visiting friends, attending football fixtures and hitting the sales,

Overall, the period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day will see far more leisure trips than before Christmas, with up to 17.5 million planned.