Record numbers of people will be taking to the road this holiday season. Get there safely this Christmas by keeping in mind the following statistics and advice.
If you’re planning to travel at least 50 miles this Christmas season, you’ll be joined by nearly 30 percent of the other 320 million Americans who will be doing the same. That’s the prediction of AAA, America’s largest roadside assistance and leisure travel organization.
For the first time more than 100 million people are expected to take to the road for the year-end holiday season, beginning on Dec. 23, 2015, and ending on Jan. 3, 2016. Lower gas prices and slightly higher incomes are combining to make travel more affordable in 2015. AAA has forecast 100.5 million people will travel at least 50 miles across that 12-day period this year.
Lowest Fuel Prices Since 2009
The national average for a gallon of regular grade gasoline is right at $2 per gallon. That’s about 25 cents lower than last year and more than a $1.30 below 2013’s average. By New Year’s Day, AAA says fuel prices will be the lowest we’ve seen in seven years for the holiday.
Inasmuch as Americans will be traveling in record numbers, accidents will rise in conjunction with the increased travel. The independent National Safety Council has forecast 307 deaths and 37,200 serious injuries for the three-day Christmas travel period alone (Dec. 24-26).
Another 346 deaths and 41,900 serious injuries are forecast for the three-day New Year’s travel period (Dec. 31-Jan. 2). The NSC notes that as many as 405 lives could be saved across these two holidays if everyone wore seat belts.
“Too many celebrations are marred by tragedies during the holiday season,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “When you are traveling, remember that you are your car’s most important safety feature. Getting to zero deaths on our roadways requires each of us to be safer behind the wheel.”
High Impaired Driving Rates
For its part, AAA is warning against impaired driving throughout the two-holiday season. AAA notes that 21 percent of licensed drivers who drink at least occasionally have admitted to taking to the road when their alcohol consumption may have been close to or over the legal limit.
“As we celebrate the holiday season, AAA urges travelers to be cautious about their safety and the safety of everyone sharing the roadways,” said Marshall Doney, AAA President and CEO. “Ninety-seven percent of licensed drivers consider it unacceptable to drive when they may have had too much to drink, yet there is an average of one alcohol-impaired-driving death every 53 minutes.”
Get Road Ready
For drivers planning to take to the road for Christmas or New Year’s Day, ensuring that the vehicle is ready for the trip is especially important (see How to Get Your Car Ready for Winter). That may mean replacing your all-season radials with winter tires, especially if your trip involves winter driving conditions. Ensuring that your roadside assistance plan is current is important as insurance for a possible breakdown.
As for the driver and vehicle occupants, the NSC recommends that everyone wear a seat belt. If you plan to drink, then a designated driver is a must. You should also begin your trip rested — get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks along the way.
Avoid using a cell phone while behind the wheel, including hands-free. Importantly, if your teens take to the road — even for short distances — don’t allow them to drive with their friends. The NSC notes that just one teen passenger will increase distractibility as well as your teen’s crash fatality rate by 44 percent.
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Photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.