AP NEWS

Holiday travelers told to be safe

December 21, 2018 GMT

As the holidays near, an estimated 2.5 million Hoosiers will navigate the roads and sky to make it to their festivities. AAA projects a record 112.5 million Americans, or one-third of the population, will travel.

Most of the holiday travelers will take to the road, with an estimated 102 million driving.

“There are many reasons this year will see record travel, but topping the list is a strong economy, higher wages and consumer confidence,” said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokeswoman. “When it comes to road travel, more motorists are getting behind the wheel to travel for not just the three reasons I mention, but we are seeing the cheapest gas prices seen in December in two years.”

According to GasBuddy, a company operating apps and websites to find real-time fuel prices, the national average is expected to be $2.35 per gallon by Christmas Day. 

Fuel prices in Fort Wayne averaged $2.38 per gallon as of Thursday, which is down 15 cents from last year.

Rebecca Neild, air service and marketing manager for the Fort Wayne International Airport, said low gas prices have not affected passenger travel.

Instead, there has been a 3.5 percent increase year-over-year, which would mark nine consecutive years of passenger growth at the end of this year.

To avoid delays, Neild said to leave any presents unwrapped while going through TSA check, or put them in checked luggage.

With 4.4 percent more drivers on the road, safety should remain a top priority.

In a study conducted by GasBuddy, drivers become 175 percent more aggressive during holiday seasons.

Published on Dec. 5, the study looked at driving data from the week of Thanksgiving. The data indicated most aggressive driving habits happened en route to the destination, rather than on the way home.

Indiana ranked 20th among states with the most aggressive drivers, having an average of almost nine aggressive events per driver, such as speeding, hard braking or accelerating.

“Whether you travel by road, rails or runways, travelers need to pack their patience this holiday season,” Casselano said.

Along with more patience, AAA recommends motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility for any needed maintenance before heading out.

The association expects to provide roadside service for about 960,000 motorists during the year-end holiday period, with dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires being leading reasons for car trouble.

The Indiana Department of Transportation also recommends drivers leave early, limit distractions such as cellphone usage, slow down in work zones and plan trips with INDOT or other map services. 

To help keep drivers safe, the Fort Wayne Police Department plans to increase traffic enforcement, especially when it comes to impaired driving, said Officer Michael Joyner, city police spokesman.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute recently purchased 1,759 portable breath test devices to assist 150 Indiana law enforcement agencies in establishing probable cause when arresting drunk drivers, according to a news release from the institute.

Enforcement will be increased between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. on Saturday, as well as Dec. 28 and 29.

Joyner recommends using Uber or the Holiday Cab, a free service.

“Drinking and driving will get you in trouble,” Joyner said. “There’s no reason to ruin your holiday season, and quite possibly your career, over something that is totally avoidable.”

cstefanski@jg.net