Jingle hell? More Americans to hit the roads this holiday season

John Egan 

If you plan to drive during the 2012 holiday season, be prepared for some traffic jams.

Results of a survey commissioned by HomeAway Inc., owner of a family of websites for vacation lodging rentals, show 26 percent of Americans expect to travel this Thanksgiving, compared with 17 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, 40 percent of Americans plan to travel during the December holidays, compared with 22 percent in 2011.

“From our survey, it seems people feel optimistic about the economy and are starting to travel more, but our research shows they’re still cost-conscious,” Brian Sharples, CEO of HomeAway, says in a news release. “In an effort to save money, many travelers are driving instead of flying and looking for ways to avoid all the extra fees – from checked bags and in-flight meals, to fees for being able to sit next to one another – which can quickly add up, especially for families.”

The percentage of people saying they’ll travel more than 250 miles for Thanksgiving is expected to drop to 52 percent this year from 61 percent in 2012, with three-fourths traveling by car. The number of people traveling more than 500 miles over the December holidays is expected to fall from about 58 percent in 2011 to 51 percent this year, with 54 percent going by car.

Here are some tips from State Farm, 21st Century Insurance and UPS geared toward staying safe during your holiday travels.

  • Don’t drink and drive. Also, be on the lookout for other drivers who are drunk.
  • If possible, stay off the roads between midnight and 3 a.m. That’s when drunk driving accidents are most likely to happen.
  • Be ready if your battery dies. Cold weather takes its toll on car batteries. Double-check to make sure you’ve got jumper cables in your trunk.
  • Prepare to be stuck. A winter storm can leave you stuck, particularly if you’re traveling on unfamiliar roads. Stock your car with in-case-of-emergency items like thick blankets, extra food and water, coats and jackets, and a flashlight.
  • Consider revising your plans if you face the prospect of driving on icy or snowy roads.
  • Look as far down the road as possible. This helps you keep the car centered in the lane and gives you more time to monitor traffic.
  • Maintain the proper distance from the car in front of you – at least 6 to 8 seconds – so you can detect road hazards.
  • Scan the road. Don’t stare ahead; constantly shift your eyes while driving. Active eyes keep up with changing traffic conditions.

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