Holidays bring increased travel plans, busy roadways

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Santa will soon take to the skies with his eight trusty reindeer, but he won't be the only one out and about this busy holiday season.

With both Christmas and New Year's Day falling on a Saturday, record numbers of people are expected to travel by road, air and rail. Adding to the busy mix is the wintry mix of precipitation expected to fall the next few days.

"Use those winter driving skills," said LT. Carl Roark with the Ohio State Patrol. "We would caution people not to drive if they don't have to be out. But if they do go out, do everything slow: Accelerate slow, turn slow and use caution in traffic."

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While many area residents will be enjoying their vacation, Roark said all 12 troopers at his post in South Point would be out on patrol in an effort to keep the roadways safe.

"The traffic was really heavy last year, so we don't expect any real changes in the average," he said. "But we didn't have any holiday fatalities in Lawrence County during that time and we hope to keep it that way this year."

Part of that success can be attributed to the designated driver program, Roark said.

"I do think the message has gotten out there as far as celebrating responsibly is concerned," he said. "People seem to be taking precautions during the holidays by choosing a designated driver."

AAA East Central estimates that 62.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more during the next week. Of that number 50.9 million will be on the road - a 2.9 percent increase from the 49.4 million who drove a year ago.

About 50.9 million are expected to fly (a 3.5 percent increase). Train travel will probably be higher this year as well.

For those driving over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house, AAA spokesperson Bevi Norris offered some suggestions.

"Probably the most important tips are to know what the weather forecast is in the areas they're traveling to," Norris said. "Also, listen to traffic reports on the radio and find out how congested the roadways are. Have some alternate routes in case there are some problems along the way."

Norris also reminded motorists to take their cell phones and safety kits along for the ride to make sure they are prepared in case of emergency.

Dispatcher Shirley Mannon at the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office said the department is prepared for the coming week, but is encouraging the local community to do the same.

"We're just urging people to use caution and common sense out there," she said.