— By BRIAN SMITH
With gas prices hovering around $2.90 per gallon for regular unleaded, the number of Americans traveling over the holidays is expected to rise for the fifth straight year.
That includes Dex Linscomb, of Bridgeport, who was gassing up his car Wednesday in Weatherford on his way to Corpus Christi to visit his wife’s family.
“We’re having Christmas with them Friday and then heading out to West Texas for my family Christmas on Wednesday,” Linscomb said. “It was good to see gas prices come down after Thanksgiving because that’s the cheapest way to go for us.”
Linscomb said it will be the first substantial road trip he and his wife, Crystal, have taken since having twins nine months ago. He said things had gone well so far, but there was still a long way to go to Corpus Christi, including the first night the twins have spent out of their own beds. That ought to be interesting. Wish us luck.”
Michelle Jefferson, of Weatherford, said it is too early for her to even think about Christmas. She says she will be flying to visit friends in St. Louis on Christmas Day and still has two holiday celebrations to drive to this weekend.
“I haven’t prepared for anything or bought any presents,” Jefferson said with a chuckle. “It’s OK, though, as there are a lot of people like me.”
AAA says an estimated 94.5 million Americans, or about 30 percent, will be traveling 50 miles or more for Christmas and New Year’s activities, a record of increased travel for the fifth straight year.
“While economic growth has stagnated and consumer confidence has fallen, Americans will not be Scrooges when it comes to traveling this year,” AAA Chief Operating Officer Marshall L. Doney said. “AAA is projecting more Americans to travel than ever before to gather with friends and family, exchange presents and ring in the New Year.”
AAA says the average traveler this year will clock 805 miles, an increase of 45 miles, and spend $765, up from $759 in 2012. More than 90 percent of travelers will do so by car.
The relatively low cost of gas might also have played a part in spurring Americans to hit the road in 2013. Though AAA says the price at the pump is higher than the multi-year low of $3.18 per gallon seen a month ago, it expects most drivers to pay less than they did over the 2012 year-end holiday.
Travel by air is expected to decrease just more than one percent with 5.5 million people flying this holiday.
No matter where you go, AAA’s Doney made an appeal to motorists to be extra diligent about the dangers of impaired driving. AAA statistics from this past year show that one in five licensed drivers admitted to having driven when they thought their alcohol level might have been close to or over the legal limit.
“Despite the ubiquitous warnings about drinking and driving, especially during the holiday season, alcohol-related crashes still represent one in three motor vehicle deaths,” he said.
Doney asked holiday partygoers to keep a watchful eye on those who may be at risk of getting behind the wheel after a festive evening.