Planes, trains & automobiles
About 107.3 million people are expected to travel from home during the year-end holidays, a 3.1 percent increase in travel volume compared to last year.
AAA is forecasting that Americans will take to planes, trains, automobiles and other modes of transportation during the period, which runs Saturday through Jan. 1. It will be the highest year-end travel volume on record and marks the ninth consecutive year of rising year-end holiday travel.
Since 2005, total year-end travel volume has grown by 21.6 million – over 25 percent.
“More expensive gas prices are not swaying holiday revelers to stay home,” Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president for travel and publishing, said in a prepared statement. “In fact, across the board this year, travel has increased year-over-year for every major holiday weekend – Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving – and we project the same for the year-end holiday period. We’ve seen the strong economy and growing consumer confidence fuel holiday travel all year long.”
December’s national average price for gas is $2.47 per gallon – 28 cents more than 2016.
However, AAA does expect the average to drop at least another 5 cents by year-end.
Officials reported that drivers will pay the highest year-end holiday prices since 2014, yet a vast majority of American travelers – 90 percent – are still planning to hit the road. For the 97.4 million traveling by automobile, travel times could be as much as three times longer than the normal trip.
In addition, travelers taking to the skies will pay the lowest average in five years for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes. At $165 on average, airfares are nearly 20 percent cheaper than 2016.
For holiday travelers and year-end celebrants, authorities have some advice to stay safe.
On local roads, law enforcement will be on the lookout during the holiday season. Through Dec. 31, the Cape Coral Police Department is taking part in the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.
“We’re always out looking for impaired drivers,” spokesman Cpl. Phil Mullen said. “But the holidays tend to be the time people are out celebrating and we want to remind people to make good choices.”
“It’s more of a public awareness drive than anything,” he added.
Six out of 15 fatalities this year in the Cape, or 40 percent, have been directly attributed to impaired driving. For the same time last year, 36 percent – four out of 11 – were due to impaired driving.
“It’s always a concern,” Mullen said. “It’s two more, but that’s two too many.”
As part of the campaign, the CCPD will increase its saturation patrols. He explained that a team of officers will be roaming the Cape’s streets specifically on the lookout for any impaired drivers.
“We have that team out there and that’s all they’re doing, that’s all they’re tasked with,” Mullen said.
“They’re not hindered by taking calls for service,” he added.
It will also utilize social media to alert drivers and the community to the campaign.
“We’ll be putting it out on social media again through the duration of the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign,” Mullen said. “The more awareness we can get out, the better.”
As for safety tips, he suggested that holiday revelers designate a sober driver to take them home, call for a taxi or contact a ride service like Uber, or even stay put for the night where they are partying.
“There’s just so many options to avoid doing that,” Mullen said of drinking and driving.
Motorists should also avoid texting and driving.
“Texting and driving takes your attention from the road,” he said.
In addition, obey the speed limit and wear a seat belt.
“They’re both equally important,” Mullen said.
The CCPD is joining the Florida Highway Patrol, along with thousands of other law enforcement and highway safety agencies located across the nation, by participating in the holiday safety campaign.
“Impaired driving continues to be a priority for law enforcement in the state,” Col. Gene S. Spaulding, the FHP’s director, said in a prepared statement. “In an effort to get drunk and drugged drivers off Florida roads, FHP troopers will aggressively enforce impaired driving laws to ensure motorists and their families arrive to their destination safely.”
Mullen offered some tips to keep those traveling safe through the holiday season.
“Make sure you give yourself time, so you’re not rushing,” he said.
The vehicle should be in running condition and the safety equipment operational.
“Make sure your tires are OK,” Mullen said.
Motorists should also stop and rest – or give up the wheel – if they become drowsy.
“Drowsy driving is basically impaired driving,” he said.
AAA and Budweiser are again offering the Tow to Go program now through 6 a.m. on Jan. 2 the holidays. It is designed to help discourage an intoxicated driver from getting behind the wheel.
“As we enter Tow to Go’s busiest time of the year, we are very excited to reach the 25,000 safe ride milestone,” Amy Stracke, executive director of AAA The Auto Club Group’s Traffic Safety Foundation, said in a prepared statement. “However, we would still like to see more and more motorists planning ahead so the holidays can be safer for everyone.”
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).