Driving for the holidays? Watch out for traffic, weather and COVID

On the way to the end of the year celebrations? Travel experts warn freeways in Texas and across the country could be as congested as they were before the coronavirus pandemic.

AAA Texas estimates that more than 8.8 million Texans – a 32% increase from last year and just 8% fewer than in 2019, before the pandemic – will travel 80 km or more from their homes during the holiday period between December 23 and January. 2.

About 8.3 million of those Texans will drive – that’s a 27% jump from 2020 and 7% less than in 2019.

Nationally, AAA Texas estimates that 100 million people – a 28% increase from 2020 and only a 7% decrease from 2019 – will leave the city for the holidays.

Last month:Are you and 3.6 million Texans hitting the road for Thanksgiving? Leave before the rain comes

How are the prices this year?

Nationally, gas prices are about 10 cents lower than Thanksgiving, according to GasBuddy.

In Austin, prices range from $ 2.45 per gallon to $ 2.59 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline, according to fuel tracker GasBuddy.

“The national Christmas average is expected to drop from $ 3.32 today to $ 3.25 per gallon,” GasBuddy posted on its website Thursday. “At just a dime off the 2013 Christmas tally of $ 3.26 per gallon, the most expensive Christmas on record, there is still a chance that prices in 2021 could still land just above the previous Christmas record.”

Car rentals and accommodations could be more expensive for travelers this year, according to AAA Texas. Mid-range hotel rates are up 36% for AAA-approved hotels for Christmas travel, with an average nightly rate of $ 320.

The average car rental rate is up 20% for Christmas travel compared to last year, with the lowest average daily rate of $ 130.

“Car rental companies have replenished their inventory following a shortage over the summer, but with the increase in demand expected at this time of year, it is important to book early. possible, “AAA Texas warned in a statement last week.

Travel experts warn that on-vacation traffic jams in major cities can add hours to trips. INRIX, a global mobility analysis company, used historical and recent travel trends to determine that motorists in Houston, for example, could face nearly twice the commute time typically spent driving in the city. metropolitan area.

Traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic

Those traveling for vacation gatherings can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for advice. The site provides information on travel requirements and recommendations based on your immunization status, point of origin and destination.

For example, the CDC warns against all travel if:

  • You have been exposed to COVID-19, unless you have been fully immunized or recovered from COVID-19 within the past 90 days.
  • You are sick.
  • You have tested positive for COVID-19 and have not ended the isolation (even if you are fully vaccinated).
  • You are waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test. If your test is positive while you are at your destination, you will need to self-isolate and delay your return home until you can safely end the isolation. Your travel companions may need to self-quarantine.

AAA Texas has an interactive COVID-19 travel restrictions map that shows you which states and locations have closures or requirements for travelers.

Under federal rules, masks are still required for everyone on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of U.S. public transportation, and in transportation hubs such as airports and train stations.

The CDC recommends that everyone wear a mask indoors in public places in a high or high transmission area.

What’s the weather going to be ?

The week leading up to Christmas in Austin will cover the gamut from the almost freezing chills of the 1930s to daytime highs near 80 degrees, according to the National Weather Service’s extensive forecast, so keep a variety of jackets on hand.

Monday and Tuesday will be the coldest of the next seven days, with daytime temperatures remaining well into the 1950s despite the appearance of more sun.

Warmer southerly air will return to central Texas by Wednesday and help bring temperatures back to the 70s as the holiday weekend approaches. Don’t count on a white Christmas this year in Austin.

Temperatures on Christmas Day are expected to reach 78 degrees, which would be one of the hottest Christmases on record in Austin. The last time Christmas was this hot was in 2016, when temperatures soared to 80 degrees. But the hottest Christmas in town was in 1955, when it was 90 degrees.

Safety first

If this is your first big road trip in some time due to the coronavirus pandemic, AAA Texas recommends having your car inspected for key parts such as battery, fuel system, tires. , brakes and fluid levels. AAA Texas said it expects to answer more than 38,300 calls for help from its members during the holiday period.

If you see one of your fellow drivers in difficulty, Texas passing / slowing down law requires you to move in a lane or slow down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit as you approach traffic. emergency or roadside crews, including tow trucks.

Starting Thursday, the Texas Department of Public Safety will crack down on vacation drivers caught speeding, not wearing their seat belts, driving while intoxicated, or other offenses. to the highway code.

“It’s always nice to celebrate the holidays with friends and family, but please keep the well-being of other travelers at the forefront of your mind when you go,” said DPS Director Steven. McCraw in a statement Friday. “The soldiers will protect the public on the roads, but we also depend on other drivers to do their part, so that everyone can have a safe and enjoyable vacation. “

DPS soldiers issued 116,810 citations and warnings during Christmas and New Years 2020 law enforcement efforts, including:

  • 14,499 citations for speeding.
  • 1,636 violations of seat belts and child seats.
  • 2,625 tickets for driving without insurance.

Soldiers also made 615 DWI arrests and arrested 355 fugitives during the same period.

Austin Police will also target drunk drivers as part of a no-denial initiative to coincide with the year-end vacation.

Every night through January 1, police will have more resources to secure search warrants for drunk driving suspects who refuse to provide a breath or blood sample for a blood alcohol test.

During last year’s no-denial initiative from Dec. 18 to Jan. 3, Austin police made 119 DWI-related arrests. Among those charged:

  • 19 of the consent breath samples showed a blood alcohol level of 0.15. The legal limit is 0.08.
  • 14 had already been convicted of DWI.
  • 12 had at least two previous DWI convictions.

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