By Lauren Wanko
A little rain doesn’t appear to stop drivers from hitting New Jersey’s roadways for the holidays.
“We’re going to visit our family, my wife and I are. Both of our families are from Virginia,” said Holmdel resident Steve Strickland.
Strickland is one of the more than 2.4 million New Jersey residents AAA Mid-Atlantic projects will travel 50 miles or more from home for Christmas and New Year’s, an increase of 4.4 percent over last year.
“Ninety percent of those are traveling by car, so our roadways are going to be crowded,” said AAA’s Tracy Noble.
This year’s travel forecast is the highest growth rate for the year-end holiday season since 2009 and the automobile association is projecting the highest travel volume for the holiday period on record, which starts today and lasts through Sunday, Jan. 4.
AAA’s Noble says the calendar is one of the factors contributing to busier roadways.
“This year the holiday travel season is 13 days compared to last year when it was 11 days so you have more days this year to spread out that holiday travel period,” she said.
Air travel is up 1.2 percent over last year.
“Cheaper gas, more travel,” said New York resident Nick Mutlu.
Still, it’s prices at the pump that are motivating motorists this holiday season.
“They’re getting back in their vehicles and they’re not going to let the Grinch steal Christmas,” Noble said.
The number of those traveling by car this year is up 4.7 percent compared to last year.
“Prices on average are 89 cents cheaper then they were this time last year so that factor alone is putting more people on the roads,” said Noble.
Today’s average gas price is $2.38 per gallon compared to $3.29 this time last year.
“Things are looking up, motorists are spending a lot less and on a national level that equates to $450 million a day less spent on gasoline compared to what we were paying towards the beginning of the year when prices were over $3 a gallon,” Noble said.
The extra cash means Mutlu can put a few more gifts under the tree this year.
“The more money you save, the more money you spend,” he said.
Still an increase in drivers this holiday season could mean an increase in the number of breakdowns.
“AAA in general across the country is gonna rescue about 1.1 million AAA members this holiday travel period and in New Jersey it’s going to equate to about 19,500,” Noble said.
Which is why AAA recommends drivers check their car battery before their road trip and ensure, along with any presents, there’s also a winter driving emergency kit in the trunk.