It’s the most wonderful time of the year, unless you’re sitting on the highway surrounded by a sea of brake lights.
“People overwhelmingly are traveling by motor vehicle. Total, for the country its 112.5 million. That is the most on record since we started tracking these things back in 2001,” said Robert Sinclair from AAA Northeast. “We show 2.7 million New Jerseyans traveling.”
The holiday travel season is considered Dec. 22 through Jan. 1. With more than a third of Americans traveling in just an 11 day span, cities like Newark that are a transition hub will feel it the most. Global mobility company INRIX estimates that, in the country’s most congested cities, travel times will increase by about 4 percent. So if you’re taking to the road or to the sky, leave extra time.
Bad weather and crowded roads leads to more accidents and drivers stranded on the side of the road.
“There are going to be a lot of vehicles that are going to be stranded during the holiday period, again Dec. 22 through Jan. 1. We’re anticipating 960,000 breakdowns, and that’s just among AAA members,” Sinclair said. “The top items are flat tires, dead batteries, lock outs, but we’re also talking burst radiator hoses and busted fan belts, those sort of things, so you really need to do a little preventive maintenance before you hit the road. Being stranded is more than an inconvenience. It’s not just going to mess up the trip, it can mess up your life.”
Sinclair says risk of death by the side of the road is very high, and it’s the number one killer of police. But it’s not all doom and gloom. The increased traffic can be a strain on your patience, but it’s not hurting the state’s wallet any.
“Traveling is good for America. I remember the Travel Industry Association many years ago used to talk about how when people traveled, it was good for the economy. People spend money on the trip itself, when they get to their destination they go out, they eat, they stay in hotels, they do all sorts of things. So travel is definitely an economic boom,” Sinclair said.
And falling gas prices help.
“Even though it’s a small part of the travel budget, if you’re driving people’s eyes light up when they see cheaper gasoline prices. So it certainly is an additional motivator to getting people out on the road,” he said.
If you’re traveling locally — PATH, train and bus schedules will be operating on limited schedules. And it can’t be said enough: leave extra time.