The best days for enjoying empty roads and light traffic this holiday season look like being the two either side of Christmas Day, according to ITIS, the nationwide agency that supplies traffic information to government departments, BBC local radio and the sat-nav systems of most car manufacturers.

ITIS says the last time Christmas Day fell on a Saturday was in 2004: that year, 23 December was busy with holiday getaway traffic, but the following day was quiet as many people had already departed for holiday destinations. Christmas Day and Boxing Day should also be quiet, but 27-30 December are likely to be busy again as people head for shops and sporting events.

Traffic will typically build from late morning and stay dense until late afternoon. “Though these are busy days, the usual morning and evening rush-hours don’t exist,” says ITIS’s chief executive, Stuart Marks.

“New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day should be quieter as revellers tend either leave cars at home on their way out (29 December) or be at home recovering (1 Jan),” he adds. “But Sunday 2 Jan and Monday 3 Jan (another bank holiday) will probably be busy again as people head homewards after their long break.” Though the nation officially returns to work on Tuesday 4 January, ITIS expects the first week of the New Year to have lighter-than-usual traffic levels because schools will still be closed and there should be lower levels heavy goods traffic.