News Column

Roads Busier Than Usual for Holiday, Auto Club Predicts

Dec. 23, 2012

More people will be traveling for the holidays this year, according to a study by AAA.

AAA forecasts 93.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the upcoming holidays, a 1.6 percent increase over the 91.8 million people who traveled one year ago. This year's expected travel volume is the second highest in the past decade.

"Typically, Americans travel during the holidays regardless of economic conditions or gas prices," said Jim Lehman, executive vice president, AAA East Central. "Year-end travel has steadily increased since 2008. The 11-day holiday provides travelers the opportunity to visit family and friends or squeeze in a year-end vacation."

Traveling by vehicle is a popular mode of transportation. Approximately 83.6 million people (or 91 percent of holiday travelers) plan to take to the nation's roadways during the holiday travel season, a 2.1 percent increase compared to 2010-11 when the number of auto travelers totaled 81.9 million.

AAA East Central said it anticipates aiding approximately 39,000 stranded motorists in the local four-state region during the Christmas and New Year's holiday driving period, Dec. 20 to Jan. 2.

As drivers take to the roads for the holidays, AAA expects to be busy across the country with battery replacements and jump starts, changing tires, extricating vehicles from snow, towing vehicles for repair and more. An expected 16,000 drivers will need a tow during the holidays, the agency predicted.

"Becoming stranded on the roadway is the last thing on anyone's list," said Steve Popovich, managing director of AAA's Automotive Services Department. "Many holiday breakdowns can be avoided with a touch of preventive maintenance."

While preventative measures go a long way toward keeping motorists driving safely on the road, unexpected weather or vehicle problems may still arise and leave them stranded. AAA encourages motorists to update their emergency roadside kit for winter to include a mobile phone and car charger; blankets; a flashlight with extra batteries; a first-aid kit; drinking water; a small shovel; a sack of sand, cat litter or traction mats; windshield scraper and brush; battery booster cables; and emergency flares or reflectors.

Holiday air travel is expected to increase by 4.5 percent to 5.6 million travelers, up from 5.4 million in 2011, AAA said. Roughly 3.3 million travelers will choose other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ship.

AAA said it does not expect gas prices to have a major impact on travel volume, but consumers could have more money to spend on holiday shopping, dining and entertainment, if prices drop through December as expected.

AAA estimates the national average price of gasoline will slowly go down through the end of the year. Currently, the national average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline is $3.24. Gas prices dropped about 50 cents a gallon on average from September through early December, but remain at record highs for this time of year.


Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 Tonawanda News (North Tonawanda, N.Y.)

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