More than 103 million Americans — the most on record — are expected to travel for the year-end holidays, according to AAA.
The auto club projects about 1.5 million more people will travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2 compared to last year.
The increase is being driven by additional consumer spending, a result of improvements in the labor market and rising wages. Additionally, low gas prices and increased consumer optimism will prompt more Americans than ever to set out on road trips, take to the skies, or board trains, buses, and cruise ships to celebrate the holidays.
In our region (Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin), AAA says there will be 17.2 million travelers. Of those, 15.7 million will take to the roads.
Gas prices right now are down 21 centers on average from New Year’s Day 2016. Most U.S. drivers will pay the second-cheapest New Year’s Day gas prices since 2009, when the national average was $1.62.
But you need to be careful. AAA expects to rescue more than 980,000 motorists over the 11-day holiday travel period, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, flat tires, and lockouts.
The weather will also offer challenges.
“One of the biggest misconceptions is people think the roadway is wet when it’s actually ice,” said AAA safety advisor Terri Rae Anthony. “The problem is that they are driving too fast to safely adjust their speed when they realize they are on ice. Drivers should generally drive slower when the temperatures are around the freezing point.”
As the temperatures drop, drivers should increase the amount of space between their car and others on the road so that they have time to safely react to an emergency situation.
If you lose control of your car, AAA advises to remain calm and turn in the direction you want your car to go. Stay in control of the skid.
Here are some other tips:
• Make sure windows are free of dirt and grime and keep your windshield wiper reservoir full at all times. Replace windshield wipers and fluid.
• Clean your headlights so that you can see and be seen by others.
• Cold weather reduces tire inflation pressure so check pressure frequently to maintain the recommended pressure on the driver’s door jamb. Make sure your spare tire also has the correct air pressure.
• Once your battery reaches three years old, have it tested by your repair facility. During harsh winter conditions have your battery checked once a month.
• If locks are frozen, spray with graphite spray or de-icer.
• Your emergency roadside kit for winter should include a cell phone and car charger, blankets, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, food and water, a small shovel, a sack of sand, cat litter or traction mats, windshield scraper and brush, battery booster cables, and emergency flares or reflectors.
• Adjust your driving habits as road conditions change. Easy on the gas and easy on the brake. Nearly one-quarter of weather related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement.
• Drive distraction-free. Looking away from the road for even two seconds doubles your chance of a crash.
• Do not use cruise control. Avoiding using cruise control allows you to respond instantly when you take your foot off the gas.
• Do not tailgate. Normal following distances should be increased significantly (eight to 10 seconds) when driving on icy roads.
• Drive on the clearest lane. When on a four-lane highway, drive in the lane that has the least amount of snow and ice. Avoid changing lanes and driving over snow buildup.
• Know when to brake and when to steer. When traveling over 25 mph, AAA recommends steering over braking, as less distance if required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. In slick conditions, sudden braking can lead to loss of vehicle control.
• Always look 20 to 30 seconds ahead so that you can plan your stops.