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AAA: 1 in 3 Americans will travel this season

December 17, 2018
Vehicles drive along Interstate 64 in Huntington in this file photo. AAA predicts record travel this holiday season with Thursday, Dec. 20, predicted to be the nation's busiest travel day.

As the holiday season approaches, AAA forecasts that more than one-third of Americans will take to the nation’s runways, roadways and rails.

AAA released its annual holiday travel forecast Thursday and predicted a record-breaking 112.5 million travelers, which represents a 4.4 percent increase over last year and the most since AAA began tracking holiday travel.

“It’s exciting to see a record-breaking number of people traveling and bringing cheer to family and friends,” said Jim Lehman, president of AAA East Central. “The strong economy and declining gas price trends play a role in this year’s projected increase.”

For the more than 102 million people who will pack up their cars for a holiday road trip, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be as much as four times longer than a normal trip.

Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX expects drivers to experience the greatest amount of congestion before the holiday week, starting on Wednesday, Dec. 19, as commuters and holiday travelers mix on the nation’s busiest roadways.

AAA’s forecast predicts Thursday, Dec. 20, to be the nation’s busiest travel day.

AAA defines the year-end holiday travel period as Saturday, Dec. 22, through Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. The 11-day span is one day longer than last year, due to Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Tuesdays this year.

In AAA’s forecast for the South Atlantic region, which includes West Virginia, holiday travelers will total 20.9 million, an increase of 4.3 percent from the 20.1 million in 2017. An estimated 19 million will travel by automobile, up 4.3 percent from last year’s 18.2 million, and 1.1 million people will fly to their destinations, up 3.6 percent from the previous year’s amount of 1.09 million.

AAA’s report also indicated falling gas prices and rising disposable income as a motivating factors for more holiday driving travelers.

“While gas has been relatively expensive throughout this year, a recent drop, combined with rising disposable income, is motivating more Americans to hit the road this holiday season,” the report stated. “Gas prices averaged $2.46 for the first week of December, which set the record as the cheapest national gas price averages of the year.”

According to AAAs website, the national average price has dropped even lower to $2.39.

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded in Huntington was down to $2.10. Ohio was showing an average price of $2.11, but several Ohio stations below $2 a gallon have been reported in the Tri-State. Kentucky’s average price was down to $2.15 a gallon for regular unleaded, according to AAA.

AAA added in its travel forecast that it expects to rescue more than 960,000 motorists at the roadside this year-end holiday period. They cited dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires as the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble.

“AAA recommends motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out,” the report said. “Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown.”

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 46 percent of all crashes involving bad weather take place in the winter.

“AAA encourages drivers to be vigilant when hitting the road this winter and to always stay prepared by carrying an emergency roadside kit containing a mobile phone and car charger, first-aid kit, blankets, drinking water and snacks, a flashlight with extra batteries, a basic toolkit, warning flares, an ice scraper, jumper cables and a shovel,” the report said.

For more information, visit AAA.com.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/Fred-PaceHD and via Twitter at @FredPaceHD.

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