Holidays can be dangerous on Carolina roads

Published 10:46 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More than 2.5 million North Carolinians will hit the roads this travel holiday. According to the nonprofit travel, auto and insurance organization AAA Carolinas, that makes the holiday one of the deadliest of the year.
Last year, 56 people died on North Carolina roads during the year-end holiday travel period, for an average of 5.1 traffic fatalities per day and a 42 percent increase from the average 3.6 daily traffic fatalities during the rest of the year, said a AAA press release.
The Christmas/New Year’s travel holiday is defined as Saturday, Dec. 22, through Tuesday, Jan. 1.
“Besides being the longest holiday travel period of the year, the Christmas/New Year’s holiday is one of the most dangerous,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “Motorists should be patient with road congestion and obey all traffic laws.”
Holiday travel in North Carolina is expected to increase by 2 percent this year, due to decreasing gas prices and lower airfares: 2,778,000 North Carolinians are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home, according to the press relase. Of those travelers, AAA estimates 90 percent (2.5 million) will drive, 6 percent 167,000) will fly and 4 percent (111,000) will travel by other means, such as train, bus or boat.
The average price of gas in North Carolina is $3.23, down 62 cents since peaking in mid-September and down 8 cents from pre-Thanksgiving holiday prices. Prices are expected to remain stable or slightly decrease over the holidays, according to AAA Carolinas, due to lower demand and high inventories.
Motorists can expect to find the cheapest gasoline in North Carolina in Rocky Mount at $3.19 a gallon and the most expensive gas in Boone at $3.34. For those traveling through South Carolina, the average price per gallon is $3.03.
Air travel is expected to be up 4 percent this year, due in part to lower airfares, which average $203 for the top 40 U.S. routes. However, travelers will see much higher car rental rates, up 40 percent from last year from $40 per day to $56 per day. Hotel rates are also up from last year, with AAA Three Diamond hotels averaging $129 (an increase of 2 percent), and AAA Two Diamond hotels averaging $95, (an increase of 3 percent).
According to AAA, North Carolina travelers are expected to log an average trip of 765 miles from home, a slight increase from 726 miles last year. Drunk driving is always a major problem during this travel period with holiday parties often held between Christmas and New Year’s. Drivers are advised to secure a designated driver or call a cab if they are planning to consume alcohol. North Carolina’s “Booze It & Lose It” campaign, which runs Dec. 7 through Jan. 2, includes checkpoints and stepped-up patrols to remove impaired drivers from North Carolina roads.
North Carolina suspends most construction projects during the holiday travel period, with these exceptions: N.C. Highway 12 in Rodanthe (Dare County) may have intermittent closures due changing weather and surf conditions; U.S. Highway 17 Business in Jacksonville (Onslow County) is reduced to two-lane, two-way traffic on the Buddy Phillips Bridge over the New River for construction of a new bridge;
U.S. Highway 74/76 in Wrightsville Beach (New Hanover County) on the Wrightsville Draw Bridge is reduced to one lane in each direction for construction of a new bridge; U.S. Highway 421 in Carolina Beach (New Hanover County) is reduced to one lane in each direction at Snow Cut’s Bridge for rehabilitation work; Cape Fear River Bridge and Cross Creek Bridge on I-95 Business/U.S. Highway 301 in Fayetteville are closed for bridge replacement with detour routes posted; I-73 in Greensboro (Guilford County) will be reduced to three lanes in each direction from two miles south of Wendover Avenue (Exit 101) to 1 mile north of I-85 Business (Exit 97) for construction of a new interchange.
Because unexpected weather or vehicle problems may leave motorists stranded this holiday season and inclement weather is probable, AAA recommends keeping an emergency kit in your car.
To estimate fuel costs, travelers can go to to input starting city, destination, and the make and model of their car.
AAA also offers the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone and Android devices that uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find updated gas prices, view nearby member discounts and access AAA roadside assistance.
For more information about AAA Carolinas, visit