HAMILTON – Over 2.3 million New Jersey residents will travel 50 miles or more from home for Christmas and New Year’s, an increase of 1.4% over last year’s statistics, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic projections. The year-end holiday period is defined as Saturday, Dec. 21 to Wednesday, Jan. 1.
Projected New Jersey Travel by transportation mode:
- By Automobile:
- 2,109,337; or, 90% of all travelers
- Up 1.6% compared to 2012.
- By Air:
- 155,390; or, 6.6% of all travelers.
- Down 0.4% compared to 2012.
- By Other Mode:
- 80,428; or, 3.4% of all travelers.
- Up 0.3% compared to 2012.
Nationally, holiday travel to total 94.5 million, an increase of 0.6 percent from the 94 million who traveled last year. Year-end holiday travel is expected to increase for the fifth consecutive year, reaching a new high since data has been collected by AAA. However, holiday air travel is expected to decline slightly to 5.53 million travelers from 5.61 last year.
“While economic growth has stagnated and consumer confidence has fallen Americans will not be scrooges when it comes to traveling this year,” said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “AAA is projecting more Americans to travel than ever before to gather with friends and family, exchange presents and ring in the New Year.”
Only once in the past decade has there been a change in travel volume greater than five percent and that was a decline in 2007 as the recession was just getting started. “Of all the travel holidays, the year-end holiday season remains the least volatile as Americans will not let economic conditions dictate their travel plans to celebrate the holidays,” said Noble.
With nine in ten holiday travelers driving to their destinations, AAA makes a timely appeal to everyone on the road to be extra diligent about the dangers of impaired driving particularly when holiday partygoers may risk getting behind the wheel after a festive evening.
According to the latest data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, one in five of all licensed drivers, that drink at least occasionally, reported having driven when they thought their alcohol level might have been close to, or possibly over, the legal limit in the past year. The survey also reveals that 96 percent of drivers consider impaired driving to be unacceptable, with 50 percent reporting that drunk drivers are a bigger problem today versus three years ago. “Despite the ubiquitous warnings about drinking and driving especially during the holiday season, alcohol-related crashes still represent one in three motor vehicle deaths,” said Noble.
Between December 21 and January 1, AAA expects to come to the rescue of 3.76 million motorists nationally with the primary reasons for breakdowns being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. In the Mid-Atlantic region AAA expects to rescue 64,000 motorists; over 17,000 in New Jersey. AAA recommends motorists check battery and tire condition and prepare vehicles for winter driving before heading out on a holiday getaway. Car care tips and information are available at AAA.com.
Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans
Gas prices have climbed slightly from the multi-year low of $3.18 per gallon on November 12, but AAA expects most drivers will pay less than a year ago to fill up during the holiday season. Gas prices recently increased because of planned and unplanned maintenance at a number of refineries and seasonally stronger demand for gasoline. The average price today in New Jersey is $3.28. Prices should decline by the end of the year due to rising supplies and increased refinery production.
Average travel distance increases
According to the survey of intended travelers, the average distance traveled is expected to be 805 miles, which is an increase of 45 miles from last year when travelers logged 760 miles.
Median spending increases slightly; visiting family, dining and shopping top activities
Median spending is expected to be $765 up from $759 last year. Visiting with friends and family (74 percent), Dining (70 percent) and shopping (51 percent) will be the most popular activities.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight Year-End Holidays 2013/2014 Travel Forecast can be found here.
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