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Holiday traffic expected to be heavy

By Staff | Dec 24, 2015

In Florida, an estimated 5.2 million people will travel during the 2015 year-end holiday season.

According to AAA, 1.9 percent more Floridians will journey 50 miles or more from home this year between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3 as compared to 2014. About 4.8 million will travel by automobile.

Nationwide, 100.5 million Americans are expected to travel during the same time period – a 1.4 percent increase over 2014. This upward trend marks the seventh consecutive year of travel growth.

“The increase in holiday travel this year is driven by continued improvement in the labor market, rising incomes and low gas prices, which remain well below last year’s levels,” Brent Stahlheber, senior vice president of brand marketing and travel for the AAA Auto Club Group, said via a prepared statement.

On local roads, law enforcement will be on the lookout throughout the holiday season. Through Jan. 1, the Cape Coral Police Department is participating in the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.

“We are going to be doing traffic saturations,” Sgt. Patrick O’Grady, with the Traffic Unit, said.

“So we’ll have extra people on the road looking for impaired drivers,” he said.

Eight out of 13 fatalities this year in the Cape have been directly attributed to impaired driving.

“If you’re drinking and driving, we will stop you,” O’Grady said. “If you’re caught driving impaired, you will face jail time, fines, loss of driver’s license, towing fees and other DUI expenses.”

“Worst-case you hurt or kill yourself of someone else,” he added.

Designate a sober driver, call a taxi, contact a service like Uber or stay put for the night.

“It’s easier to spend a night at a friend’s house than in jail,” O’Grady said.

Motorists should also be aware of what medications they are taking as some can impair a person.

“People don’t always think about their medications when they drink,” he said.

Authorities offered other tips to keep travelers safe through the year-end holiday season.

“Safety is very important, especially with driving,” O’Grady said.

Do not text and drive, and drive defensively – do not speed and obey stop signs.

“Take your time and don’t be in such a rush,” he said.

Keep your eyes open when driving.

“Be fully aware of what’s going on around you,” O’Grady said.

For people traveling out of town, officials suggested that they make sure their vehicle is in proper working order. They should have a spare tire and jack, emergency kit and first aid kit available.

“Have your car checked,” he said. “Make sure everything works.”

Travelers should also make sure to buckle up.

AAA and Bud Light are again offering the Tow to Go program through Jan. 1 to the public for the holiday. It is designed to help discourage an intoxicated driver from getting behind the wheel.

The service provides a confidential ride to the driver to a safe location within a 10-mile radius. The service is free, and the AAA tow truck will take the vehicle and driver to the safe location.

To use the Tow to Go program, call (855) 2-TOW-2-GO (286-9246).