Holiday travelers will find gas prices in Utah among lowest in nation

Published: Sunday, Dec. 15 2013 3:24 p.m. MST

Traffic flows along Interstate 80 at Leisure Town Rd. in Vacaville, California. Forty-five percent of Americans plan to travel during December — 29 percent to the city, 18 percent to the beach and 11 percent to the countryside. And 53 percent of travelers will be on the road, up 5 percent from 2012.

Joel Rosenbaum, Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — Elijah and Trina Hall will soon embark on a three-day road trip with their 10-month-old daughter to go home for the holidays and attend a family wedding.

They’ll drive a little more than 2,000 miles from Provo to Georgia.

“One, we can have a car when we’re out there. Two, our car gets great gas mileage, so it’s cheaper than flying,” Trina Hall said.

The Halls are among the 45 percent of Americans who plan to travel during December — 29 percent to the city, 18 percent to the beach and 11 percent to the countryside, according to a TripAdvisor survey.

And 53 percent of travelers will be on the road, up 5 percent from 2012.

The percentage of travelers flying is down 4 percent from last year, and 25 percent of survey participants said they are choosing to drive rather than fly because of rising airfare costs.

Over the past year, the national average for airfare has gone up from $401 to $436, while the national average for gas has dropped from $3.39 to $3.27, TripAdvisor reported.

Drivers filling up in Utah will be happy to know the state has the eighth-lowest gas prices in the nation, according to AAA. Utah gas prices dropped more than nearly any other state from Nov. 12 to Dec. 10. The average price now is $3.05 a gallon, 18 cents lower than last month, and 36 cents lower than last year at this time.

“Plentiful supplies, flat demand and falling crude prices combined for dramatic relief at the pump for Utah motorists this fall,” AAA Utah spokeswoman Rolayne Fairclough said in a prepared statement.

While lower gas prices will keep some money in motorists' pockets, they should consider spending some of that stashed cash on being prepared for any driving conditions.

Utah is known for great snow for skiing in the mountains, but the weather can cause problems on the roads, as motorists trapped overnight on I-15 last weekend could attest.

The Halls are planning to avoid traveling over the Rocky Mountains by taking a southern route in an effort to avoid snow. They’re also having their car serviced before they hit the road.

Preparing vehicles for snowy conditions is important, according to Justin Ford, manager of Jack’s Tire & Oil in Orem.

“The first thing you should do is always check your (tires') air pressure, make sure your air pressure is up to snuff," Ford said. "You wouldn’t want to go out on a trip and have a tire blow out on you. For the tire to have the best traction, you need that tire up to the right recommended air pressure for the car.”

Most auto stores will check a vehicle's battery and tire pressure for free. Ford also said to check tires for adequate tread, at least half-tread or better for winter.

“A good rule of thumb is to take a penny and stick it in the tire, and if you can see the head of Abraham Lincoln, you’re good. But even during winter, I’d want to increase that even more,” Ford said.

He advises motorists to keep a snow scraper and shovel in the car, clear snow and ice from the hood, roof, headlights and tail lights, and let the vehicle warm up before driving. Ford also suggested keeping an emergency kit in the vehicle and a bag of salt in the trunk.

“That helps with weight, so it gives you more traction in your car," he said, "but then also if you get on a slippery road and you get stuck, you can put that down in front of your tires for traction to get unstuck.”

Ford said to use lower gears for increased traction, and if a vehicle starts slipping, motorists should let their foot off the gas and ease into the brakes instead of pumping the brakes.

“Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right,” said Brian Remsberg, a spokesman for Michelin.

Overall, experts advise being extra cautious on winter roads and making sure both drivers and vehicles are prepared for possible weather or mechanical problems.

Twitter: @madeleine6, Email: madbrown@deseretnews.com

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