December 19, 2014

WTOP: Expect a lot of company on the roads for the holidays

Four out of 10 people in the D.C. metro area plan to leave town for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

 AAA Mid-Atlantic projects nearly 91 percent of people traveling 50 miles or more will be on the road. This year is the highest travel volume recorded for the Christmastide season in the Washington metro area, the travel company reports.

“We’re going to have a major exodus, the likes of which we have never seen before,” says Lon Anderson of AAA Mid-Atlantic. Holiday travelers taking advantage of cheap gas (the national average price of gasoline is at the lowest level in five years) are expected to clog major highways everywhere.

“It’s going to take longer to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ if you’re driving especially,” Anderson says.

Drivers who begin journeys at 3 p.m. Christmas Eve can expect to sit in traffic. “Traveling at the odd times would be better — leaving very early or very late,” he says.

Anderson wants drivers to respect how dangerous it can be to drive while drowsy.

“Please, please if you begin to feel tired or weary  do something about it,” Anderson says.

He recommends pulling off the road, getting some caffeine, jogging around the parking lot of a rest area or taking a brief nap.

“It’s not how fast you get there — it’s getting there safely,” Anderson warns.

A pre-trip check list should include making sure your vehicle has good windshield wipers and good tires, and that all of the lights are working. And just in case a vehicle does blow a tire or breaks down, Anderson recommends prudent packing.

“If you have  alternatives in the way you pack, you might want to assure you have access to a spare tire and that kind of thing.”

Anderson says AAA schedules extra crews over the holidays to offer roadside assistance. The most common calls are for flat tires, dead batteries and lockouts.

Air travel is expected to remain steady at the region’s three international airports, and those traveling by air will be doing so at lower fares, compared to last year, AAA reports.

The average lowest round-trip from Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas is $206 compared to $263 last year; the average lowest round-trip from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. is $106 compared to $234 last year.