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Holiday travelers projected to increase this year

Published: Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Those driving this holiday season will share crowded roads with a record number of travelers.

AAA projects that 94.5 million Americans – more than ever before – will journey 50 or more miles for the holidays in 2014. This marks the fifth consecutive year the number of travelers has increased for end-of-the-year holidays.

“This year is just a little bit higher than last year and last year was just a little higher than the year before,” said Beth Mosher, director of public affairs for AAA Chicago. “Bottom line – even though the economy is still turning around, this is an important holiday for people to travel.”

Gas is roughly $1.60 more per gallon than it was four years ago, yet 91 percent – or the majority of travelers – will take to the roads this holiday.

“Where the holidays fall on the calendar this year really helps out because people get an entire two weeks for travel,” Mosher said. “They are willing to travel farther than before.”

With a record amount of drivers sharing the roads, travelers are urged to be extra cautious this year.

“Leave the cellphone with your passenger; the driver should be focused on the road,” Mosher said.

The National Weather Service forecasts icy, snowy roads this weekend for Grundy and surrounding counties.

Combine inclement weather conditions with an increase in motorists who have been drinking, and holiday driving becomes a dangerous affair.

“This time of year is a time when festivities happen and we consider it to be everybody’s responsibility to take the keys away from someone who has had to much to drink,” Mosher said.

Grundy County Sheriff Kevin Callahan said his department will have extra patrols checking seat belts and watching for impaired driving this weekend and New Year’s weekend.

“Always plan ahead for the bad weather,” Callahan advised. “With the changing weather conditions, people should be driving a little slower and paying close attention to their surroundings.”

Forecast

• Saturday – A chance of freezing rain before noon, then snow and sleet likely, possibly mixed with freezing rain. Cloudy, with a high near 34. Northeast wind 5 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70 percent.

• Sunday – Snow likely, mainly before noon. Cloudy, with a high near 32. North northeast wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west northwest in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 70 percent.

• Monday – Scattered flurries. Partly sunny, with a high near 14.

• Tuesday – Mostly sunny, with a high near 18.

Source: National Weather Service

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