Travel expected to be on the rise for holidays

Dec. 20, 2012 @ 08:44 AM

There is the expectation that more motorists will be on North Carolina roadways for the Christmas holiday travel season.

According to AAA Carolinas, the Christmas holiday season — defined as Dec. 22, 2012 to Jan. 1, 2013 — may see a 2 percent increase in travelers, mainly due to decreasing gas prices and lower airfares.

“Besides being the longest holiday travel period of the year, the Christmas/New Year’s holiday is one of the most dangerous,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas, in a release. “Motorists should be patient with road congestion and obey all traffic laws.”

Last year, according to AAA Carolinas, 56 people died on North Carolina roads during the holiday period for an average of 5.1 traffic fatalities per day. This was a 42 percent increase from the average 3.6 traffic fatalities during the rest of the year.

AAA Carolinas expects nearly 2.8 million travelers in the state to go more than 50 miles during the holiday season. Of that, 90 percent will drive, 6 percent will fly and the remaining 4 percent will travel by other means, such as train, bus or boat.

Fuel prices continue to fall across the state. The average price of gas in North Carolina is $3.23, which is down $0.62 since its highest in September and down $0.08 since just prior to Thanksgiving. AAA Carolinas said they expect prices to remain stable or decrease slightly over the holidays. This is due to lower demand and higher inventories of fuel.

AAA Carolinas said that the cheapest gas in the state will be found in Rocky Mount at $3.19 per gallon with Boone expected to have the most expensive gas at $3.34. In South Carolina, the average price of gas, per gallon, is $3.03.

Air travel is expected to be up 4 percent this year, due in part to lower airfares, which average $203 for the top 40 U.S. routes. However, AAA Carolinas said that travelers will see much higher car rental rates, up 40 percent from last year from $40 per day to $56 per day.

North Carolina travelers are expected to log an average trip of 765 miles from home, a slight increase from 726 miles last year. Drunk driving is always a major problem during this travel period with holiday parties often held between Christmas and New Year’s.

North Carolina’s “Booze It & Lose It” campaign, which runs Dec. 7 through Jan. 2, includes checkpoints and stepped-up patrols to remove impaired drivers from North Carolina roads.