Herald-Sun editorial: A good sign: Holiday travel on the rise

Dec. 22, 2012 @ 08:09 PM

Observers who are looking for a sign that the economy might be on a subtle upswing will not have far to look this holiday season.

AAA Carolinas reported this week that holiday travel in North Carolina is expected to rise by 2 percent. One of the main reasons for that is that gas prices have shown a much-welcomed decline. Last Monday, the per-gallon price of regular gas was $3.23, quite a lot lower than the mid-September peak of $3.85 and 8 cents a gallon lower than the price around Thanksgiving.

Because of higher inventory and lower demand, the price of gas is expected to remain steady or fall slightly over this holiday season.

AAA Carolinas says that 90 percent of the nearly 2.8 million North Carolina residents who will travel more than 50 miles over the holidays are drivers, with 6 percent planning to take to the airlines. The average holiday trip is expected to be 765 miles, longer than 726 last year.

Setting aside the risk of sounding too optimistic, the increase in total number of travelers and the distance to be traveled is a sign that more folks in North Carolina are willing to spend the money and time to travel over the holidays – a good sign that more residents are feeling economically secure and willing to spend money, aided by the lower fuel prices we have seen.

With more people heading to North Carolina highways, it is worth pointing out that more crowded roads mean more delays and a degree of potential danger. Last year, 56 people died in crashes in North Carolina over the holidays, about five fatalities per day. “Besides being the longest holiday travel period of the year, the Christmas/New Year's holiday is one of the most dangerous,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas, in a statement. “Motorists should be patient with road congestion and obey all traffic laws.”

Police are also increasing patrols over the holidays in an effort to protect travelers from impaired drivers, through the Booze It & Lose It campaign, which is in effect through Jan. 2. That effort includes sobriety checkpoints.

Patience is a virtue when traveling over the holidays, whether it is by car or plane. Respect for fellow travelers is good for everyone, and makes for a much more pleasant experience.