PARKERSBURG - Millions of people throughout the country and region are expected to take to the roadways for the holidays, an expert said.
"We are expecting more people to travel this year than last year," said Bevi Powell, vice president of community relations with AAA East Central District in Pittsburgh.
While nationally about 83.6 million travelers will take to the roads, regionally 15.4 million people will be on roadways to visit family and friends for the holidays, she said. These numbers equate to one in four Americans taking a trip.
Photo by Amy Phelps
Traffic moves along Juliana Street.
"This year we are expecting the second highest number of travelers in the past decade," Powell added.
Americans are known to travel during the holidays regardless of the economy or gas prices and year-end travel has steadily increased in the past for years.
"Because we are having a n 11-day holiday this year with Christmas early in the week, it gives travelers the opportunity to visit family and friends or even take a vacation," Powell said.
Of the total 93.3 million people traveling, 91 percent of them will be in cars and on roadways. This is up 2.1 percent from the 2010-2011 year.
"While road travel has increased, so have other forms of travel with 5.6 million people taking planes and another 3.3 million using trains, buses and cruise ships," Powell said. "It is going to be very busy out there this year.
One reason Powell states for the increased number of travelers is the drop in fuel costs.
"Gas prices have been going down," she said. "On Thursday they were as low as $3.17 in Parkersburg, which is down significantly from just a month ago where it was in the high $3 range."
This drop represents about a 50 cent per gallon average decrease between September and early December, but prices still remain at a high for this time of year.
"We don't think thousands of people will look at gas prices and have that as their deciding factor, but there might be a few who take that chance," Powell said.
Not only is the number of travelers expected to increase, but so is the distance they are traveling.
Last year, travelers logged an average of 726 miles and this year they are expected to go 760 miles.
"Every year is different and there are so many factors that go into how many people decide to travel for the holidays," Powell said. "We just hope that no matter what, everyone is safe out there."