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Officials urge safe holiday travel during record traffic

Officials are urging residents to stay safe as a record number of people are expected to travel this year for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

“More Americans than ever on record – 115.6 million – will travel this holiday season, from Saturday, Dec. 21 through Wednesday, Jan. 1,” said Clay Ingram, spokesperson for AAA Alabama. “That is the most in nearly 20 years since AAA began tracking in 2000 and represents an increase of 3.9 percent increase over last year, or 4.3 million more people packing up their sleighs for a holiday getaway.”

More than 104 million of those holiday travelers will drive to their destinations and, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects delays to be the worst on Thursday, Dec. 26, with afternoon delays reaching nearly double congestion-free drive times in major U.S. cities.

“Holiday cheer is at an all-time high this year, with unemployment at historically low levels, and noted improvements in both disposable income and household net worth,” Ingram said. “Travelers should be getting used to crowded highways and airports, as this marks the eighth straight year of new record-high travel volumes for the year-end holidays.”

Sgt. Drew Brooks of the ALEA Troy Post said U.S. Highway 231 is always particularly crowded during the holidays.

“U.S. Highway 231 will become really congested from this weekend throughout the holiday period,” Brooks said. “We ask motorists – whether traveling locally to shop or to other states – to leave early, plan your trip out, and be patient with other drivers.”

Brooks said the Troopers will be out in full force to enforce curb speeding, aggressive driving, driving under the influence and following too close among other violations.

“These are all major contributing circumstance to many of our crashes,” Brooks said. “When you combine these circumstances such as following too close and speeding or distracted driving, that’s a recipe for disaster that can cause a major accident.”

With holiday celebrations abounding, Brooks said alcohol is of special concern during the season.

“If a person does decide to consume alcohol during the holidays – or any other time of the year – be responsible and stay at home, or if travelling, have a designated driver. It is that simple. It’s very important that you make a good decision; it could be the difference between life or death.”

For the safety of the traveling public and ALDOT construction and maintenance crews, there will be no temporary lane closures on Alabama interstates after 6 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 24, through 6 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 26. For the New Year’s holiday, there will be no temporary lane closures from noon, Tuesday, Dec. 31 through 6 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 2.

“Safety is in the hand of drivers, as they are out enjoying their holiday celebrations,” said Allison Green, Drive Safe Alabama coordinator with the Alabama Department of Transportation. “Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can wreck your holiday and have serious consequences that continue long past the new year.”