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AAA: 104M expected to travel more than 50 miles by car for winter holidays

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More than 115 million people will travel more than 50 miles away from home during the Christmas and New Year holidays and most will reach their destination by car, AAA said.

Its annual projection found that during the 10-day period encompassing the two holidays, approximately 104 million Americans will pile into a vehicle for travel.

The total figure represents a 2.2% year-over-year increase from last year, and is the second-highest year-end travel forecast since 2000, AAA said.

“This year-end holiday forecast, with an additional 2.5 million travelers compared to last year, mirrors what AAA Travel has been observing throughout 2023,” said Paula Twidale, AAA Travel’s senior vice president. “More Americans are investing in travel, despite the cost, to make memories with loved ones and experience new places.”

AAA added that the amount of holiday drivers represents a 1.8% year-over-year increase, and is the second highest on record. It trails behind 2019 when 108 million people traveled by car during the holidays, it added.

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, said drivers could hit bad traffic during several points of the holiday period. The worst times to hit the road will be Dec. 23, the first Saturday of the break, and Dec. 28, it said.

Dec. 30 is also likely to bring heavier traffic, INRIX added, noting that people are either heading home or traveling for New Year’s Eve. INRIX said the best time to begin a trip is before lunch or after 7 p.m.

“Nationwide, drivers could see travel times up to 20% longer this holiday season. In major metros, especially in Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC, drivers could experience nearly double the typical delays,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Avoid peak commuting hours and use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services to minimize holiday travel traffic frustrations.”

Meanwhile, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it will work to educate drivers on the dangers of impaired driving throughout the holiday season. It says it will do so through its “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” and “If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. Drive High, Get a DUI” campaigns.

“Impaired driving crashes are 100% preventable — there’s simply no excuse or reason to drive impaired by alcohol or drugs,” said Ann Carlson, NHTSA’s Acting Administrator. “We urge everyone to be responsible this holiday season. If you’ve had anything to drink, use public transportation, arrange for a sober driver, or call a taxi or ride-hailing service and get home safely.”

NHTSA is moving closer to rulemaking that will seek out and potentially standardize the implementation of technology to combat impaired driving.

Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg said during a press conference last week that NHTSA is calling for public comment ahead of a proposed rulemaking on advanced impaired driving prevention technology.

“[This] announcement lays the groundwork for an impaired driving rulemaking that will seek the most mature and effective technology,” Polly Trottenberg told reporters. “We’re going to call on everyone our advocate partners, academics and innovators in the technology space: Please bring us your best ideas, your research. Let’s join together to advance as quickly as we can the next technology and impaired driving prevention.”

NHTSA said in its advance of proposed rulemaking that this stage is meant to gather information to develop performance requirements and mandate that new vehicles are equipped with impaired driving prevention technology.

Also this month, General Motors CEO Mary Barra said the automaker would comply with NHTSA to include the technology in its vehicles.

“We’ve been working with regulators on that,” said GM CEO Mary Barra during an interview at the Economic Club of Washington D.C, according to Auto News. “We have technology to do that. I think that’s technology that’s coming that I think is going to be good for everyone.”


Featured image courtesy of njw1224/iStock

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