More than 2.5 million North Carolinians will hit the roads this travel holiday – one of the deadliest of the year, according to AAA Carolinas.
Last year, 56 people died on North Carolina roads during the year-end holiday travel period, an average of 5.1 traffic fatalities per day. This represents a 42% increase from the average 3.6 daily traffic fatalities during the rest of the year.
The Christmas/New Year’s travel holiday is defined as Saturday, Dec. 22, through Tuesday, Jan. 1.
“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. “Motorists should be patient with road congestion and obey all traffic laws.”
Due to decreasing gas prices and lower airfares, holiday travel in North Carolina is expected to increase by 2% this year.
During the holiday travel period, 2,778,000 North Carolinians are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home. Of those travelers, 90% (2.5 million) will drive, 6% (167,000) will fly and 4% (111,000) will travel by other means, such as train, bus or boat.
The average price of gas in North Carolina is $3.23, down 62 cents since peaking in mid-September and down 8 cents from pre-Thanksgiving holiday prices. Prices are expected to remain stable or slightly decrease over the holidays, according to AAA Carolinas, due to lower demand and high inventories.
Motorists can expect to find the cheapest gasoline in North Carolina in Rocky Mount at $3.19 a gallon and the most expensive gas in Boone at $3.34. For those traveling through South Carolina, the average price per gallon is $3.03.
Air travel is expected to be up 4% this year, due in part to lower airfares, which average $203 for the top 40 U.S. routes. However, travelers will see much higher car rental rates, up 40% from last year from $40 per day to $56 per day.
Hotel rates are up from last year, with AAA Three Diamond hotels averaging $129 (up 2%), and AAA Two Diamond hotels averaging $95, (up 3%).
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. Drivers are advised to secure a designated driver or call a cab if they are planning to consume alcohol.
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.
North Carolina suspends most construction projects during the holiday travel period, with these exceptions:
• N.C. 12 in Rodanthe (Dare County) may have intermittent closures due changing weather and surf conditions
• U.S. 17 Business in Jacksonville (Onslow County) is reduced to two-lane, two-way traffic on the Buddy Phillips Bridge over the New River for construction of a new bridge
• U.S. 74/76 in Wrightsville Beach (New Hanover County) on the Wrightsville Draw Bridge is reduced to one lane in each direction for construction of a new bridge
• U.S. 421 in Carolina Beach (New Hanover County) is reduced to one lane in each direction at Snow Cut’s Bridge for rehabilitation work
• Cape Fear River Bridge and Cross Creek Bridge on I-95 Business/U.S. 301 in Fayetteville are closed for bridge replacement with detour routes posted
• I-73 in Greensboro (Guilford County) will be reduced to three lanes in each direction from two miles south of Wendover Avenue (Exit 101) to 1 mile north of I-85 Business (Exit 97) for construction of a new interchange.
Unexpected weather or vehicle problems may leave motorists stranded this holiday season and inclement weather is probable.
AAA recommends keeping an emergency kit in your car that includes:
• Mobile phone and car charger
• Blankets and flashlight with extra batteries
• A first aid kit
• Drinking water and non-perishable snacks
• Small shovel and sack of sand or cat litter for traction
• Windshield scraper
• Battery booster cables
• Plastic emergency triangle reflectors