Record Number of Holiday Travelers Expected

A record number of North Carolinians, nearly three million, are expected to hit the road this holiday season, according to AAA Carolinas.

Falling gas prices are making it more affordable to travel this year. The state average for a gallon of gas is $1.97 and expected to continue to fall during the winter months.

During the holidays, drivers might see variation in prices at different gas stations. This is due to the high number of travelers and competition between gas stations to attract those customers, according to Tiffany Wright of AAA Carolinas.

An estimated 158,000 North Carolinians will be flying to their destination this holiday season, a slight increase from last year. On average, airfare rates are down 6% from 2014.

AAA recommends keeping an emergency kit in your car in case you become stranded due to bad weather or car trouble. Helpful things to include in your kit are flash lights, blankets, battery jumper cables and a small bag of sand or cat litter for traction in case you get stuck.

Drunk driving can be a problem during the holiday season and police across the state are cracking down. North Carolina’s “Booze It & Lose It” campaign started Dec.11 and will run through Jan. 3. The campaign includes checkpoints and increased patrols. If you are planning on consuming alcohol at a holiday party, make sure you have a designated driver or hire a car service.

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Low Gas Prices Fueling High Thanksgiving Traffic

Reporting by Blake Hodge.

Thanksgiving week is here, and that means many residents of the Tar Heel state are visiting family. AAA Carolinas spokesperson Tiffany Wright says you will have quite a bit of company on North Carolina’s thoroughfares over the Thanksgiving holiday.

“There will be about 1.2 million travelers on the road in North Carolina,” Wright says. “That’s an increase of about 48,000 from last year. Travelers that will be traveling 50 miles or more from home, 90% of those will be on the road.”

Wright says prices at the gas pump continuing to drop has allowed more residents to travel the highways visiting family.

“It’s impressive,” she says. “Look back to Labor Day: in fact we’re down $0.57 than we were paying from Labor Day. So motorists have a lot more money in their wallets to spend during this holiday season.”

Travelers making their way across North Carolina will see the highest gas prices in Asheville, at $2.92 per gallon. The Charlotte-Gastonia area, however, has the lowest prices in the state, at $2.73 per gallon. If you are travelling out of the state, many of North Carolina’s neighbors have prices very similar, in some cases even slightly lower, than the Tar Heel state.

Wright adds that the Thanksgiving period technically runs from Wednesday through Sunday. “The day before Thanksgiving, that Wednesday, is the worst traffic day of the year,” she says. “If you don’t have to leave on Wednesday, try and leave before Wednesday. If you do have to leave on Wednesday, try and leave before 2 PM, or – if you can afford to stay a little bit later at home – wait until after 7 PM.”

The congestion on the roadways can turn the highways deadly, as 12 people died last year over the Thanksgiving period in crashes on North Carolina Highways.

NC Gas Prices Could Drop Below $3

You might have noticed this at the pump already, but gas prices are beginning to drop, in North Carolina and nationwide – and it’s likely they’ll drop even further as we get into the fall.

“Right now in North Carolina, the average price for a gallon of gas is $3.28 – six cents cheaper than it was a month ago,” says Tiffany Wright of AAA Carolinas. “The downward trend is looking good, and I think it will continue.”

Wright says gas prices typically drop during the fall for several reasons: demand goes down after the summer driving season, and refineries are allowed to switch to a cheaper blend of gas. The price of oil is also falling this year, and that’s adding to the decline in gas prices.

And as we head into October and beyond, Wright says don’t be surprised to see gas prices dropping even further – even below $3.00.

“Of course we can’t predict the future, but it’s a real possibility that we’ll be seeing that in North Carolina,” she says.

The current statewide average of $3.28 per gallon is six cents cheaper than the national average, which is $3.34.

Record Number Of North Carolinians To Travel During Holidays

CHAPEL HILL – A record 2.8 million North Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, according to AAA Carolinas.

Angela Daley of AAA says that’s an increase of 48,500 total travelers compared to last year.

“The increase is only about 1.7 percent, so it is not a significant increase, but we have seen very slow and steady increases since the recession,” Daley says. “With Christmas and New Year’s holidays, we never really saw a huge drop-off because of the recession.”

Daley says that more than 90 percent of travelers plan to drive to their destination.

And good news for everyone, gas prices haven’t gone up. North Carolina gas prices currently average $3.23 per gallon— the same price as a year ago. Motorists can find the cheapest gasoline in North Carolina in High Point at $3.18 a gallon and the most expensive gas in Boone at $3.30.

South Carolina offers lower prices with $3.07 a gallon, Tennessee with $3.06, Virginia with $3.15, and Georgia with $3.17.

“I do think that with the improving economy, people are less concerned about what they are paying at the pump,” Daley says. “For a majority of this year, we have been paying less than we were on the same calendar date a year ago.”

The 12-day Christmas and New Year’s travel holiday is defined as Saturday, Dec. 21, through Wednesday, Jan. 1, which is one day longer than the travel period last year, Daley explains. The year-end holiday ranges from 10 to 13 days, and volume often increases relative to length.

AAA Report: No More Gas Below $3

Image courtesy of Clotee Pridgen Allochuku

CHARLOTTE – You may never see gas prices go below $3, according to a new report by the American Automobile Association.

Director of communications for AAA Carolinas, Angela Daley, says that, with a few exceptions like South Carolina, this looks like the future of gas prices in America.

“I think it’s reasonable for some parts of the country to drop below $3 a gallon, but for the most part, what we’re seeing is that range between $3 and $4 a gallon, with $3.50 being about normal,” Daley says.

Oil prices are only expected to go up, as Daley says prices typically rise in the second half of the summer.

“It’s due to demand, but it’s also due to the fact that unrest in Egypt is causing concerns over the distribution of oil through the Suez Canal,” Daley says.

Daley says that conflict in other countries affects our oil prices because the oil market is global and interconnected.

“I think the more that we can produce domestically, we’ll be able to keep the volatility from being as dramatic as we have seen over the past few years,” Daley says. “But it’s really all about supply and demand and remembering that we’re working in a global market, so as much as we’re producing here, much of that oil is still being exported elsewhere.”

Daley says rising gas prices are also a result of both oil production and oil demand from growing economies.

“For the most part, we’re seeing that countries, like China, India, Brazil, are all increasing their demand,” Daley says. “So as we increase our supply here and globally, the demand is also going up.”

Daley says oil prices in North Carolina especially are expected to rise throughout the summer, as the Carolinas get 90 percent of their oil from the Gulf and hurricane season is just getting started.

NC Gas Prices Down Going Into Easter Weekend

CHAPEL HILL – If you’re taking a road trip this Easter Weekend you can rejoice!

Since peaking at $3.80 on Feb. 22, the average cost of a gallon of gas in North Carolina has fallen to $3.64.

“Fuel prices are down about 25 cents this Easter Weekend compared to last year,” said Janeane Flow of AAA.

Flow says more people will be on the roads this weekend because the weather forecast calls for pleasant conditions.

As we head into the summer travel season, Flow explains we can expect gas prices to remain lower than last year barring any supply issues from the Middle East.

“With gasoline prices being lower, we do expect people to travel more this year. People are probably tired of recently cutting back travel plans,” Flow explained.

Flow says the popular destinations are predicted to be beaches of North and South Carolina as well as Walt Disney world.

And if you are taking a long road trip, Flow advises to take a break every one to two hours or once every one hundred miles.