Lower Gas Prices Encourage Holiday Travel As Winter Storms Make It Hazardous

Thursday, December 20th 2012, 4:30 pm
By: Craig Day

Hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans will hit the road over the next week to visit family and friends for Christmas and New Years.

The good news is you'll pay a little less for gas. The bad news is much of the middle of the country is being pounded by the first major winter storm of the season.

With just a weekend before the Christmas holiday, people are already taking off on their trips, making for a longer holiday travel period and more people on the road.

12/12/2012 Related Story: Gasoline Prices In Tulsa Area Continue To Drop

More than 852,000 Oklahomans will be traveling between this Saturday and New Years.

"More than 90 percent of those are expected to travel by automobile, so the roads are going to be very busy," said AAA spokesperson Danial Karnes.

A nice Christmas present for drivers is that the price of gas is down.

The average statewide price is $2.99 a gallon, and it's even lower in the Tulsa area.

"We don't see anything that would cause gas prices to shoot up really high so, for travelers, that's welcome news," Karnes said.

That's 14 cents less per gallon than one month ago, on average. But the not-so-welcome news is the weather some travelers may experience.

12/19/2012 Related Story: National Weather Service: Green Country May Get White Christmas

A storm that has dumped more than a foot of snow in the Rocky Mountains is causing problems for travelers as it spreads across the Plains.

Even in places where only a couple of inches of snow fell, the wind created white-out conditions.

Karnes said Oklahoma drivers should be ready.

"Make sure you're prepared for it. Make sure you're watching the weather forecast and looking online to the area you'll be traveling to," he said.

Karnes said drivers need to do some pre-checks of their vehicles before traveling.

"Tire tread—that's a big one when we're dealing with winter weather. The more tread you have, the better traction you're going to get. So you want to make sure you have good tires, you want to make sure they're inflated properly. And you want to make sure the maintenance is up on your vehicle, all the fluids are topped off, including anti-freeze," Karnes said.

Nationwide, AAA expects to respond to calls for help from 1.2 million motorists over the final 13 days of 2012 and into the first two days of the new year.

"The main thing is focusing on the roadway. You're off to Grandma's house, it's exciting, it's Christmas. You get to spend time with family, maybe you haven't seen in a while, so it's exciting. But the main thing is getting there safely and getting back home safely," Karnes said.

Don't forget about good windshield wipers, and wiper fluid. And if you haven't checked your battery in a while, it's a good idea to check it before traveling.

AAA encourages drivers to also include things like blankets, a flashlight with extra batteries, and emergency flares or reflectors just in case.