Officials: Use caution while driving during holiday

The holiday season means travel time for most families, and with snowy and icy conditions, this is one of the most dangerous times of the year for commuters.

According to AAA, the holiday travel forecast projects 43.4 million U.S. residents will travel at least 50 miles from home for Thanksgiving this year. It also indicates that travel is down about 1.5 percent from last year’s Thanksgiving holiday.

“Allow extra time on the road while traveling,” Elizabeth Smigelski, member representative for AAA Michigan, said. “Black ice can be especially hard to spot, so being prepared for an emergency can help ensure a safe trip.”

Both Smigelski and Michigan State Police Community Service Trooper Ashley Simpson recommend putting together a winter emergency kit to keep in your vehicle, not just during the holiday travel season, but all through the winter months.

“Be prepared for bad weather this time of year,” Simpson said. “Have a full tank of gas, and keep a blanket and candles in your car in case you get stranded somewhere. Granola bars and water along with a small shovel are also good items to have in your car.”

Simpson encourages drivers to make sure their tires are in good condition with plenty of winter tread for the snowy conditions.

“It takes 10 times longer for a vehicle to stop on wet or slippery roads,” Simpson said. “Take main roads and carry roadside assistance on your vehicle. Always let family or friends know when you plan to leave and when you’re expected, that way they will know if something goes wrong on the trip.”

The decreased price of gas during the holiday season will allow travelers some additional savings on trips, and AAA reports these are the lowest gas prices for the Thanksgiving holiday since 2010.

Air travelers will find airfares comparable to last year, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, with an average lowest round-trip rate of $187 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, compared to the $188 last year.

In a recent press release from AAA Alpena, Marshall Doney, AAA chief operating officer, gave some insight in the travel trends projected for this year.

“While the economy continues to improve, the sluggish pace of the recovery is creating uncertainty in the minds of some consumers, and therefore AAA is projecting a slight decline in the number of Thanksgiving travelers this year,” Doney said.

Simpson encourages travelers to keep safety in mind during all of their travels this year, and to always plan ahead and allow plenty of extra time for the ever-changing weather and road conditions during the holiday season.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.