Millions hitting the road for the holidays

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 28, 2006

Holiday travel is usually very hectic and congested but this year AAA-Alabama is predicting record high levels of commuters during the Christmas travel period.

&uot;It looks like it’s going to be the biggest Christmas travel holiday ever,&uot; said Clay Ingram, spokesman for AAA-Alabama.

AAA estimates that around 65 million people nationwide will be traveling 50 miles or more during the Christmas and New Year travel period, which is a 2.2 percent increase over the number of travelers last year.

&uot;That is significant,&uot; Ingram said of the increase.

Last year, 13 people died in traffic crashes on Alabama roadways during the 78-hour travel period, 10 on rural roads and three in urban areas. Alcohol was a factor in at least three of the deaths and eight of the victims were not wearing safety belts.

The ADPS predicts that 14 people could die during the 78-hour New Year’s travel period, which begins at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 29 and ends midnight on Monday, Jan. 1. In 2005, 10 people died during the New Year’s travel period, six on rural roads and four in urban areas. At least six of the deaths involved alcohol and three of the victims were not using seat belts.

Ingram said the large increase in the number of commuters this year is due to a combination of factors.

&uot;Senior drivers are driving longer nowadays,&uot; he said. &uot;We’re not losing older drivers.&uot;

Also, there are many more teenage drivers on the road than in the past.

&uot;We’re gaining teenagers with the population growth,&uot; Ingram said.

Another factor is that gas prices have been relatively stable over the past few weeks. &uot;Gas prices still feel pretty good compared to this summer when gas was around $3,&uot; Ingram said.

In order to keep traffic problems to a minimum, Alabama State Troopers will be out in full force during the holiday travel period. All available troopers will be on duty for a stepped-up enforcement effort that will include routine patrols and special checkpoint and line patrols.

Law enforcement officers are doing their part in regards to safety, but there are things motorists can do as well.

&uot;Get your vehicle checked out ahead of time,&uot; Ingram said. &uot; And tire pressure is very important.&uot;

And be sure to pack items such as blankets and jumper cables in case your vehicle breaks down on the road.

&uot;A cell phone is a great tool to have,&uot; Ingram said. &uot;But we strongly recommend that people do not talk on them while they’re driving.&uot;