About 88 million Americans will travel during the Christmas and New Year's holidays, up about 3.8 percent from last year, AAA reported Wednesday.
In Washington, the number of travelers is expected to increase by about 12 percent, marking a gradual recovery from the drop seen in holiday travel in 2007.
The majority of holiday travelers will be relying on their cars to visit family and friends or for leisure travel in the next few weeks, said Penny Jager, AAA's service center manager in Kennewick.
Increased traffic also potentially raises the threat of accidents during the holiday season when people tend to party, said Sgt. Roger Wilbur of the Washington State Patrol, during the release of the AAA holiday travel report.
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December is the National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, he said. State troopers will be aggressively looking for drunk drivers to get them off the road, he said, sharing some tips for safe travel this holiday season.
Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows more people are killed in crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver on the weekends and at night.
Last week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood kicked off the "Over the Limit. Under Arrest" campaign to crack down on drunk and impaired driving during this holiday season.
"Don't put yourself at risk by drinking and driving," Wilbur said, adding it is hazardous whether you drive two blocks or 20 miles.
Plan ahead if you want to drink at a party, Wilbur said. Don't attend impromptu parties after work and end up drinking, he said. The key is to make arrangements in advance for a safe ride home, he said.
Typically, more than 1.4 million drivers are arrested annually for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, which is less than 1 percent of the 159 million self-reported cases of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year, Wilbur said.
Drunken drivers cost the nation $114.3 billion a year, Wilbur said. He said he would like to see the legal limit someone is considered too drunk to drive to go from .08 percent to zero percent.
The number of drinks consumed is not the best measure of blood-alcohol content, Wilbur said. Alcohol affects people differently depending on a number of factors including body weight, size, gender, and the type of food consumed, he said.
-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; firstname.lastname@example.org