12/23/09 — Travelers prepare to hit the highways

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Travelers prepare to hit the highways

By Laura Collins
Published in News on December 23, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne County residents planning to travel this Christmas will join millions of other North Carolinians on the road.

According to AAA Carolinas, about 3 million people from North Carolina are expected to drive more than 50 miles away from home between tonight and Christmas Eve.

And while that's a decrease of about 5 percent from last, First Sgt. G.L. Burton, of the state Highway Patrol in Goldsboro, said it's important for people to be prepared, no matter how far they are driving.

"Leave with plenty of time in case there is a detour," he said. "Travel with supplies such as a map, blanket, flashlight, water and coat. That's in case an unfortunate event happens and you get stranded."

He said it's likely the most congested area will be in the mountains, since I-40 is still closed from a rock slide that happened earlier in the year.

"The 40 detour will add an hour or two to your trip," he said. "Take your time, enjoy the moment. Some of our biggest hazards are people who speed."

Burton added that it's important to travel with plenty of gas in the vehicle.

"If you run out of gas, you run out of heat," he said.

Brendan Byrnes, AAA Carolina's spokesperson, said it's likely less people will be traveling this year because gas prices across the state are up nearly a dollar from last year.

In the state, the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas is $2.55, which is down 3 cents from a week ago and 5 cents from a month ago. A year ago, the state average was $1.63 per gallon.

"It's likely gas prices will continue to drop even through the end of the year," he said. "It's an interesting time for gas prices because it's not controlled by supply and demand right now."

Byrnes added that the most popular travel time begins this evening through Christmas Eve and then again on Sunday. The entire East Coast is a popular destination, with Orlando being the most popular destination for North Carolina residents, followed by Pennsylvania, Gatlinburg and New York.

"All major highways up and down the East Coast are open. But some secondary roads in Virginia are still being cleared," Byrnes said. "We've been instructing people to call the area Department of Transportation or call 511 to get up-to-date road closures and hazards."