Saturday marked the start of what’s expected to be a record-breaking holiday travel season.
AAA Texas projects that 9.3 million people across the state will be on the move between Dec. 21 and Jan. 1, with 8.6 million of those Texans taking to the road.
This year’s travel projection is the highest since AAA Texas started tracking travel data in 2000, according to a press release. Global transportation analytics company INRIX said delays will be the worst on Dec. 26, as afternoon delays reach almost double congestion-free drive times in major cities across the country. Houston — specifically I-69 westbound — is projected to have some of the most congested corridors in the U.S. According to INRIX, I-69 West will have about seven times the normal delays right before 5 p.m. Dec. 26
“The Lone Star State continues to enjoy a strong economy and some of the least expensive gas prices in the country,” said Kent Livesay, vice president and general manager of AAA Texas, in a release. “That combination is giving confidence to people who wish to spend their dollars on travel.”
An increase in people on roadways can mean an increase in fatal crashes, said public information officer Bobby Colwell of the Texas Department of Transportation Bryan office, who added that extra precautions should be taken for winter driving. Since 2014, the department has tracked 195 fatalities on roadways around the Christmas holiday, and 211 around the new year.
Colwell said checking antifreeze, battery, tires, windshield wipers and lights is critical when driving in winter weather. He said everyone should tell people when they expect to arrive at their destination, and pack emergency roadside kits with water, snacks, blankets and jumper cables in case of an emergency.
Following distance behind other cars should be increased and drivers should slow down, Colwell said, because it can take twice as long to stop when the road is wet, and even longer if it’s icy. He noted that drivers should not use cruise control and must brake gently.
If someone starts skidding while driving, Colwell said they should not apply any gas, and start slowly steering in the direction the driver wants to go.
Other typical driving tips such as using a seat belt, avoiding cell phone and alcohol use while driving and leaving with plenty of travel time are advice Colwell said everyone should keep in mind all year.
“It’s better to arrive late than not arrive at all,” Colwell said.
To view AAA Texas’ full projection, go to aaa.com.