Holiday travel expected to reach new heights

by Sarah Fay Campbell

Holiday travel is expected to be up this year.

Many travelers will be from Coweta County, where students in the local public schools will be out for winter break after today.

It's the fifth consecutive year that travel has been predicted to increase nationwide. And this year's prediction is for the highest number of Christmas holiday travelers since AAA began tracking travel numbers. The holiday travel period is defined as Saturday, Dec. 21 to Wednesday, Jan. 1.

AAA predicts that 94.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home, up 0.6 percent from last year. In Georgia, it's predicted there will be 2.7 million holiday travelers, also up 0.6 percent from last year.

"Travel has been on the rebound for the past five years and has finally reached an all-time high for the year-end holiday season," said Jessica Brady, spokeswoman for AAA, The Auto Club Group. "This year, the holiday travel period includes two weekends and provides an extra day for travelers to visit family and friends."

A recent study by might give travelers some pause. The study ranks the 10 states with the worst drivers, and several of them are nearby. South Carolina is ranked number 2, and is listed as having the most careless drivers in the country. Alabama ranked fifth, Florida ranked sixth, and North Carolina tied with Missouri for seventh.

The worst drivers in the country are in Louisiana, the study showed. Mississippi ranked third, and was the third worst in the nation when it comes to motor vehicle-related fatalities. Rounding out the top five was Texas, at number four. It’s also the third worst in the country for drunk driving.

On a brighter note, gasoline prices have dropped slightly since last week. The Georgia average is down 4.6 cents from last week, according to AAA's website.

The Georgia state average was $3.169 as of Thursday. Travelers will see cheaper gas prices in Alabama, where the average is $3.068, South Carolina ($3.062) and Tennessee ($3.061). Prices are higher in North Carolina, where the average is $3.227, and in Florida ($3.366).

"Drivers should see gas prices move lower this week. However, the decrease may be fleeting since the Christmas holiday is next week," said Brady. "A few weeks ago, it looked like Thanksgiving travelers would pay some of the lowest pump prices of the year. Instead, millions of motorists watched gas prices spike.

“It’s not likely gas prices will jump as high as they did before Thanksgiving, but they may gain back any losses made during the two weeks prior to Christmas.”

"Historically, this is about the time of year that gasoline prices hit their yearly lows," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for "But this time around, I have more optimism that prices may move even lower in the next few weeks. As we finish our 2014 forecast at GasBuddy in the near future, we can say that 2014 does offer some relief compared to what we'll end up seeing in terms of average in 2013, but for the time being, the next week looks to see a continued drop in gasoline prices," DeHaan said.

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