- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
AAA Mid-Atlantic is projecting that almost 2 million Marylanders are expected to drive 50 miles or more between Dec. 22 and Jan. 1, 2013, and local officials are preparing to make traveling as stress-free as possible.
The number of Marylanders traveling by vehicle during the holiday season is increasing to 1.76 million people, a .9 percent increase from 2011, according to a AAA Mid-Atlantic press release. The company’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight, a Colorado-based business information provider.
With the projected increase of cars on the roads, the Maryland State Highway Administration is using several techniques to help travelers get to their destination in a safe and timely manner.
SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said temporary road construction and road closures will be suspended between Christmas and New Year’s to allow for quicker travel. It is “up to the contractor” whether crews will work during the week between the holidays, but if there is an emergency, “we’ll be out there,” Gischlar said.
To avoid traffic delays, Gischlar said SHA has a “free 511 system” for which people can sign up. The program, which people can sign up for at www.md511.org, sends text messages or emails about a person’s route, “so if there’s a crash or emergency work, you’ll get notice,” he said. It’s free to sign up, Gischlar said, and also provides real-time commuter information.
Travelers also can access live traffic cameras across the state and find information about “any incidents on the roadways” at www.roads.maryland.gov.
Prior to traveling, Gischlar recommended everyone check to make sure their cars are in proper working condition.
“This is the time of year the weather can play havoc on your car,” he said. “It’s worth it to take this time and give your car a good 15-minute walk-around.”
Gischlar said people should check “belts and coolant hoses,” check tires to make sure they’re fully inflated and have good tread and check the battery. Rapidly changing weather can cause an older battery to not start one morning, he said.
“While it’s not urgent to be on the roads right now, this is the time to make sure the basic systems on your car are in working order,” Gischlar said.
In Calvert County, local law enforcement agencies are preparing for more aggressive safe driving initiatives between Christmas and New Year’s.
Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans (R) said deputies began conducting extra saturation patrols last weekend and will continue their efforts through the holiday season. He said deputies also are performing sobriety checkpoints and patrol checks at all of the local shopping centers for “safety precautions.”
Evans said most accidents are caused by drivers not paying attention because they are using their cellphone or eating.
“Pay attention to your driving,” Evans said. “Drive safe, be courteous [and] slow down this holiday season.”
Det. Sgt. A. Paton, assistant commander of the Maryland State Police Prince Frederick barrack, said troopers will be conducting sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols and aggressive driving enforcement initiatives. He said troopers will be out focusing on traffic violations, including driving under the influence and aggressive driving, between Christmas and New Year’s.
“Obviously, we preach that if you’re going to be out drinking on the holidays have a designated driver, or call one of the free ride services that are usually available on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve,” Paton said.