By WENDY HOLDREN
BECKLEY, W.Va. — AAA is anticipating a record-breaking 107 million Americans celebrating the holidays away from home — traveling by plane, train or automobile.
Roughly 97.4 million people will travel by automobile; 6.4 million people will travel by air; and 3.6 million will travel by train, bus, rail or cruise ship.
To help motorists prepare, they’re predicting peak traffic congestion Dec. 20-21, as commuters mix with holiday travelers.
“With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays in major metros,” said Dr. Graham Cookson, chief economist and head of research at INRIX, a global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics.
“Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak times altogether or consider alternative routes.”
Cookson said the best times to leave are typically early morning or after the morning commute, as the roads should be less crowded. If your schedule permits, traveling on the holiday itself often results in fewer cars on the road.
AAA, an automotive, travel, and insurance service company, said 2017 marks the highest year-end travel volume on record, with a 3.1 percent increase compared to last year. This is the ninth consecutive year of rising year-end holiday travel.
Since 2005, AAA said total year-end holiday travel volume has grown by 21.6 million, an increase of more than 25 percent.
Motorists will find the most expensive year-end gas prices since 2014, according to AAA. This December’s national average price is $2.47, which is 28 cents more than last December.
West Virginia drivers are also paying higher prices at the pump by about 25 cents per gallon compared to last year. AAA does expect the average to drop at least another 5 cents by year-end.
“More expensive gas prices are not swaying holiday revelers to stay home,” said Autumn Bess, district office supervisor for AAA Beckley.
“In fact, across the board this year, travel has increased year-over-year for every major holiday weekend — Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving — and we project the same for the year-end holiday period. We’ve seen the strong economy and growing consumer confidence fuel holiday travel all year long.”
— Before hitting the road, make sure your vehicle is road-trip ready. Car battery-related issues, lockouts and flat tires are the leading reasons AAA is called for roadside assistance over the holidays.
— In case of an emergency, be prepared by keeping a cell phone and charger with you at all times. Carry an emergency kit with a flashlight, extra batteries, warning devices such as flares or reflective triangles, jumper cables, a first-aid kit and extra water.
— Get plenty of rest before setting out on a holiday road trip and schedule breaks every two hours or 100 miles to remain alert and avoid driving drowsy. Also, be aware of the dangers of driving distracted. Drivers should designate a passenger to serve as their official text messenger and navigator.
— Download the free AAA mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Travelers can use the app to map a route, find the lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, make travel arrangements, request AAA roadside assistance, find AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities and more. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.
See more from The Register-Herald