December 21, 2009 in City

More people will hit road this holiday season, group says

By The Spokesman-Review
 
CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON photo

Heavy traffic heads south on Browne Street toward I-90 on Friday. AAA expects a 4.4 percent increase in holiday drivers this year.
(Full-size photo)

Holiday travel is on the rise after two years of consecutive declines, according to automobile group AAA. The agency expects a 3.8 percent increase in all modes of transportation between Dec. 23 and Jan.3, with more than 87 million Americans expected to travel away from home. Travel originating in Washington state will increase 12 percent this year, significantly higher than the national average. We talked with Cassie Devaney, a spokeswoman for AAA of Eastern Washington based in Spokane, on Friday to get the scoop on who is going where and how they are getting there, as well as what travelers can do to stay safe.

Q.Are people going by plane, train or automobile this year?

A.Travel by car is expected to increase by 4.4 percent, with 77.7 million Americans on the roads. Air travel will increase by 2.9 percent. The third category is travel by all other modes of transportation, including buses and trains. That category is projected to decline by 3.1 percent.

Q.Why are so many more people choosing to drive this year over last year?

A.Last year other modes were more attractive, simply because people were still concerned about gas prices; ironically (gas prices) are higher this year, but it’s less of a concern.

Q.How far will the average Washington resident travel this year, and how much will it cost?

A.The average will be 791 miles round trip, and we expect 40 percent of those travelers will go 700 miles or more, spending an average of $1,009. Over the holidays we see more people staying with friends and family so they aren’t spending as much on lodging.

Q.What are the top concerns in terms of safety for travelers?

A.Top concerns in terms of safety right now would be weather-related for drivers; for this particular holiday season there are always concerns about adverse road conditions. Drinking and driving is also a huge concern during the holidays. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Council, last year in Washington 49 percent of the traffic fatalities that occurred involved an impaired driver, and 255 people died.

Q.What are some safety tips for car travelers?

A.The best thing to do is just really plan in advance. Give yourself plenty of time, know where you are going, and have your route clearly mapped out. Make sure wipers work, fluids are full, battery is good. If you do a little bit of preventative care for your car you can save yourself a lot of headaches.

Q.What should drivers keep in their vehicles in case of emergencies?

A.Some of the things AAA suggests include a bag of abrasive materials like sand or cat litter; a small snow shovel; a flashlight; an ice scraper; a blanket; and of course make sure your cell phone is charged before you leave.


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