Holidays mean more travelers, more deadly accidents

It's the busiest time of year on the nation's highways, but also the deadliest.

More than a million South Carolinians are expected to get away for the holidays and as they do, Santa has a gift to help make travel a little easier this year.

Gasoline prices are providing some unexpected good cheer for Scott Sims of Myrtle Beach, as he prepares to travel to Charlotte, NC over Christmas.

"Actually surprised they're going down," said Sims. "Usually at a holiday they go up instead of coming down, so it's really nice to see for a change."

AAA Motor Club says gas prices in South Carolina are down about 9 cents per gallon from Thanksgiving, to an average of $3.03, almost exactly where they were last year at this time.

Nationwide, the average price of gas has fallen 20 cents a gallon over the last month.

The motor club predicts holiday travel in the state will be up two percent over last year, with about 1.1 million people traveling at least 50 miles from home.

An improving economy and cheaper gas prices are giving people more reasons to hit the road.

"I don't have to worry so much about how much it's going to cost," said James Armstrong of Columbia, who was on a business trip to Myrtle Beach Wednesday.

But with more cars over the holiday period come more accidents.

AAA says the holiday period averages six fatalities a day on South Carolina roads, nearly three times the average for the rest of the year.

Much of that is due to people who are too tired to be behind the wheel, which is why the motor club urges drivers to get plenty of rest.

"Making sure they're not driving while they're fatigued, that is one of the largest causes during the holiday season of traffic accidents," said Tracie Lawrence, manager of AAA's Myrtle Beach office.

South Carolina Highway Patrol has already stepped up DUI enforcement for the holidays. Troopers ask that if you see someone who you believe is driving drunk, call *HP to let the Highway Patrol know.