Holiday travel can mean safe travel

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

Not everyone may be going over the river and through the woods this holiday season, but according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the year-end stretch marks one of the busiest travel times in the United States.

Their statistics say during the Christmas to New Year holiday season, travel is up 23 percent from its normal rate. The average length of the year-end holiday road trip is 275 miles, compared with the rest of the year’s 261.

The Bureau also said 91 percent of those embarking on a holiday journey do it by car.

“No one likes to think about their own mortality, but if you don’t drive safely on the road then there is a very real chance that you will hurt or kill yourself or someone else,” a road safety Web site warns.

New Mexico’s AAA not only provides tips for safe family travel but also offers fuel saving tips and ways to keep your car safe from auto theft.

A well-planned trip is the safest one, the auto club said. Mapping out the course is an essential first step, with maps available online at www.mapquest.com, www.maps.google.com and www.aaamaps.com, just to name a few. Those without Internet access can contact the nearest AAA travel office listed in the phone book and they said they can help hook up a custom trip.

Fuel can be saved by using cruise control to maintain consistent speed, choosing a route that doesn’t include a lot of congestion or stop and go traffic and by keeping the load light, said the auto club. Not only does a heavier load require more fuel, but strapping packages to the top of the car also creates wind resistance. Fuel costs can be calculated at www.fuelcostcalculator.com.

Of course, safe and efficient car travel tips become unnecessary if the car gets stolen in the first place. The FBI reports while overall car thefts across the country were down – but still surpassing the one million mark – vehicle thefts rose in New Mexico by nearly 10 percent over the last two years, with total cars stolen in 2004 at 7,902.

“Consumers need to be aware that even with high-tech vehicles and anti-theft devices, the likelihood of becoming a car theft victim is higher in the west than in other parts of the country,” said Brenda Yager, pubic and government affairs manager for AAA New Mexico. “Theft prevention is the key.”

Some tips from the auto club include parking in well-lighted areas, using a variety of security devices, like a car alarm coupled with a steering wheel lock, and never leaving the windows down or the car unlocked, even for a second. They also recommend etching the vehicle’s identification number (VIN) onto the windows and major parts of the vehicle so it’s more difficult for thieves to chop it up and sell it on the black market.

The FBI reported the combined value of motor vehicles stolen in 2004 across the nation at approximately $7.6 billion.

BREAKOUT

Safe travel tips

Get a car check-up.
Allow extra time for unexpected factors.
Start fresh, not after staying up late packing the night before.
Try to drive in daylight when visibility is best.
Stay alert at the wheel.
Take a break: make a rest stop every two hours or 100 miles.
Wear seat belts and use properly installed safety seats for children.

Source: AAA New Mexico