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AAA: 1 in 3 Americans will travel this season

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As the Christmas season approaches, AAA forecasts that more than one-third of Americans will take to the country’s runways, roadways and rails.

AAA released its yearly occasion travel forecast Thursday and anticipated a record-breaking 112.5 million voyagers, which speaks to a 4.4 percent expansion over a year ago and the most since AAA started following holiday travel.

“It’s exciting to see a record-breaking number of people traveling and bringing cheer to family and friends,” said Jim Lehman, president of AAA East Central. “The strong economy and declining gas price trends play a role in this year’s projected increase.”

For the more than 102 million individuals who will pack up their autos for a vacation trip, INRIX, a global mobility analytics organization, predicts travel times in the most congested urban communities in the U.S. could be as much as multiple times longer than an ordinary trip.

Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX anticipates that drivers should encounter the best measure of clog before the occasion week, beginning on Wednesday, Dec. 19, as workers and occasion voyagers blend on the country’s busiest roadways.

AAA’s figure predicts Thursday, Dec. 20, to be the country’s busiest travel day.

AAA defines the year-end holiday travel period as Saturday, Dec. 22, through Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. The 11-day span is one day longer than last year, due to Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Tuesdays this year.

In AAA’s forecast for the South Atlantic region, which includes West Virginia, holiday travelers will total 20.9 million, an increase of 4.3 percent from the 20.1 million in 2017. An estimated 19 million will travel by automobile, up 4.3 percent from last year’s 18.2 million, and 1.1 million people will fly to their destinations, up 3.6 percent from the previous year’s amount of 1.09 million.

AAA’s report also indicated falling gas prices and rising disposable income as a motivating factors for more holiday driving travelers.

“While gas has been relatively expensive throughout this year, a recent drop, combined with rising disposable income, is motivating more Americans to hit the road this holiday season,” the report stated. “Gas prices averaged $2.46 for the first week of December, which set the record as the cheapest national gas price averages of the year.”

According to AAA’s website, the national average price has dropped even lower to $2.39.

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded in Huntington was down to $2.10. Ohio was showing an average price of $2.11, but several Ohio stations below $2 a gallon have been reported in the Tri-State. Kentucky’s average price was down to $2.15 a gallon for regular unleaded, according to AAA.

AAA added in its travel forecast that it expects to rescue more than 960,000 motorists at the roadside this year-end holiday period. They cited dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires as the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble.

“AAA recommends motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out,” the report said. “Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown.”

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 46 percent of all crashes involving bad weather take place in the winter.

“AAA encourages drivers to be vigilant when hitting the road this winter and to always stay prepared by carrying an emergency roadside kit containing a mobile phone and car charger, first-aid kit, blankets, drinking water and snacks, a flashlight with extra batteries, a basic toolkit, warning flares, an ice scraper, jumper cables and a shovel,” the report said.

For more information, visit AAA.com.

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