Day after Christmas one of the "busiest travel days"

A little over three million North Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more for the Christmas/New Year’s holiday, according to AAA Carolinas. The record number — 3,010,305 — represents an increase of 1 percent from last year.

The 12-day Christmas/New Year’s travel holiday is defined as Wednesday, Dec. 23, through Sunday, Jan. 3.

“Although we have seen an increase in gas prices recently, Carolinians are still traveling in record numbers to celebrate the holidays and ring in the new year with family and friends,” said Dave Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas in a written statement. “With so many people hitting the roads during this time, we want to stress the importance of buckling up, eliminating drinking and driving and avoiding distractions behind the wheel.”

Those driving to their destinations will encounter slightly higher gas prices than last year. North Carolina’s current average is $2.18, while last year’s average was $1.98. Prices have been rising the past two weeks following the OPEC oil production agreement on Nov. 30.

North Carolina motorists will find the cheapest gas in the Charlotte area at $2.11 and the most expensive gas in Asheville at $2.27. For those traveling through South Carolina, the average price per gallon is $2.03.

With the excitement of holiday parties and celebrations, too many drivers are taking to the roadways after drinking. The decision to drive after even one drink can have deadly consequences. AAA advises drivers to assign a designated driver or use a car service if they are planning to consume alcohol.

As the longest holiday travel period of the year, it is also one of the deadliest. Last year, 13 people died on North Carolina roads during the year-end holiday travel period. Of those 13 fatalities, 5 were alcohol-related.