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Holiday travelers increasing in Georgia
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On the day after Christmas, D'ete Sewell will load up her car and drive with her husband and son to visit family in Coleman, Ala.

It's a four-hour trip. But not going, she said, just isn't an option.

"My dad said ‘My two girls better be home on Christmas or the day after,' " Sewell said.

More than 2.7 million other Georgians will join Sewell in traveling at least 50 miles from their homes between today and Jan. 2, a 3.2 percent increase from last year, according to the American Automobile Association.

AAA spokeswoman Jessica Brady said the packed roadways and airports could be because of pent-up demand from less holiday travel the last few years.

"Even though we did see an increase in travel in 2009, there were still a lot of consumers who missed out on their holiday travel, whether it was for financial reasons, job insecurity, (or) just an uneasiness," Brady said. "...They just really have this need to enjoy the holidays and spend it with their friends and family."

Travel by all forms of transportation - be it train, plane or automobile - is expected to increase this year, according to AAA projections calculated from consumer surveys.

Car travel will remain the most popular transportation method, with more than 2.5 million Georgia residents hitting the road, an increase of 3.3 percent from 2009. Air travel will increase by 2.9 percent and other modes such as bus and train travel should be up by more than 1 percent.

Travelers are going farther, too, with average round-trips increasing from 791 miles last year to 1,052 miles.

Brady said climbing gas prices over the last few weeks don't seem to be having much of an effect on holiday travel.

"It's much more affordable to pay for a few tanks of gas than a bunch of airline tickets," she said.

But more cars on the road makes for a greater chance of accidents, said Gordy Wright, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Public Safety. The busiest 78 hours of holiday travel will begin tonight at 6, according to the department.

"Any time you've got a holiday period that stretches over a Friday and Saturday night, there is always the increased possibility of it being a deadly holiday weekend in the state," Wright said.

Last year during the 78-hour holiday travel period, almost 2,000 Georgians were in car accidents, with more than 800 resulting injuries and 11 deaths.

Wright said holiday travel often involves extra driving distractions such as decorations on the roadways and talkative family members in the car.

"Just use caution to realize that on a holiday period, traffic will be heavy," Wright said. "There are a number of distractions out there this time of year. Drive defensively."