Travel by car for the Holidays - Cheaper and safer

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By DICK ALDRICH
Missouri News Horizon

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. Missouri travelers will take to the roads in larger numbers this holiday compared to last, but they’ll be burning some of the country’s cheapest gas on roads that are safer than ever.
Those are the conclusions of traffic experts at AAA Missouri and the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Mike Right, Vice President of Community Affairs for AAA Missouri said Monday holiday travel will be up by about two percent this coming Christmas and New Year’s holiday. That means about 91 million travelers on the nations roads and highway during the holiday period.  And in Missouri, those motorists will find some of the cheapest gas in the country.

“Missouri in the last two weeks has been among the top two or three states throughout the United States in terms of having the lowest gasoline prices of any state in the country,” said Right.

He said Missouri’s average is $3.00 a gallon. Only New Mexico at $2.90 on average is cheaper. The lowest gas prices in the Missouri are generally in southwest Missouri and around the Lake of the Ozarks, where gas prices run about $2.92 per gallon. Gas prices of about $3.15 are common in suburban areas around St. Louis and Kansas City.

Right said cheap gas prices aren’t enough on their own to bring more motorists out for the at trip over the river and through the woods.

“We’ve seen travel pick up a little each year since the start of the recession in 2007,” said Right. “It’s fortunate this year that we are seeing a noticeable decrease (in gas prices) as we go into the holiday period. We’re still going to be paying somewhat more than we did last year, but significantly less than we did during the peak period this last summer.”

Overall gas prices in Missouri are running about 22 cents a gallon more than they were at this time last year.

As the price of gasoline has been fluctuating, the number of highway fatalities has been steadily declining. This year, for the first time since 1949, the state will probably record fewer than 800 deaths in traffic crashes.

“As of today, we are seven percent below where we were last year (in the number of fatalities),” said Captain Tim Hull of the Missouri Highway Patrol. Hull said as of Monday, there had been 744 fatalities on Missouri’s roads and highways, compared to 801during last year at the same time.

Hull credits educational campaigns in schools and on statewide media for some of the drop, also factoring in are enforcement activities such as sobriety check points and speeding enforcement saturation zones. Hull said cable barriers in highway medians are also effective in lowering the amount of deaths that occur on Missouri highways, as are engineering enhancements in modern automobiles and improved emergency response and trauma treatment.

Still, Hull said too many drivers are being killed on Missouri roads and highways by inattentive driving.

“Inattention is still the number one contributing circumstance to all types of traffic crashes,” said Hull. “That’s everything from eating to drinking, to talking on the cell to texting...anything that takes that driver’s attention away from their full time job of driving the car is very dangerous.”

Hull said driver’s usage of seat belts hovers in the 76-to-77 percent range from year to year. He said states that have mandatory seat belt laws with primary enforcement have rates of more than 80 percent. Missouri’s seat belt law is a secondary enforcement item where fines can be assessed to an unbuckled driver if the driver is stopped for another violation.