Scotland County residents planning to be on the road this holiday could be joined by more than 2.5 million fellow North Carolinians with the potential for making it one of the deadliest periods 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 percent increase from the average 3.6 daily traffic fatalities during the rest of the year.
The Christmas/New Year’s travel holiday kicks off today and runs through Jan. 1.
“Besides being the longest holiday travel period of the year, the Christmas/New Year’s holiday is one of the most dangerous,” David E. Parsons, president of AAA Carolinas said in a statement. “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 percent 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 percent (2.5 million) will drive, 6 percent (167,000) will fly and 4 percent (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.
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 from Dec. 7 through Jan. 2, includes checkpoints and stepped-up patrols to remove impaired drivers from North Carolina roads.
To help drivers with the crush of holiday traffic, the state Department of Transportation is suspending most road construction activities on major routes across the state in hopes of making the trip a little smoother.
Most construction projects along interstate, N.C. and U.S. routes were suspended beginning at 4 p.m. on Friday and will be so until 9 a.m. Jan. 2.
For real-time travel information at any time, call 511, visit the NCDOT website or follow NCDOT on Twitter<http://www.ncdot.gov/travel/twitter>
Another option is NCDOT Mobile<http://m.ncdot.gov/>, a phone-friendly version of the NCDOT website. The site has a number of features to help travelers in addition to providing up-to-the-minute traffic information. For example, motorists can use NCDOT Mobile to easily locate the nearest North Carolina rest areas where they can take a break from their drive. They can pull up more information about amenities available at the rest area, as well as view the facility on a map and get driving directions.
To access it, type “m.ncdot.gov” into the browser of your smartphone. Then, bookmark it to save for future reference. NCDOT Mobile is compatible with the iPhone, Android and some newer Blackberry phones.