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The number of people hitting the roads for the Christmas and New Year holidays is expected to be higher this year, but hopefully the weather will cooperate and us all a little break.

AAA Mid-Atlantic said last week that it expects more than 2.1 million residents to travel 50 miles or more during the year-end holiday season. That's a 4.6 percent increase over 2013. An overwhelming majority, 91 percent, will be driving, AAA said.

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Ragina Cooper Averella, Public and Government Affairs Manager at AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in a press release that stronger consumer confidence, lower gas prices and a longer holiday travel window are all contributing to the uptick in travel.

Gas prices are lower than at any time in the past five years, the agency noted. The number of people driving to their holiday destinations is expected to be up 5 percent over last year. As of last week, the average price for a gallon of gas in Maryland was $2.61, or 76 cents lower than last year at this time.

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Christmas and New Year falling near the end of the week also prompt more people to get away for a few extra days over the holiday period, which AAA defines as beginning Tuesday and running through Sunday, Jan. 4 of next year.

"The lengthy year-end holiday allows Marylanders to take a trip on the front end of the holiday, coinciding with Christmas, or on the back end of the holiday for New Year's, or to get away for both holidays if residents have the time and the money," Averella said.

The agency recommends that people make sure their autos are properly serviced prior to heading out. The agency says it expects to rescue about 1.1 million motorists nationally over the holiday period. The primary reasons for breakdowns, the agency said, are dead batteries, flat tires and lock outs. AAA Mid-Atlantic said it expects to rescue more than 74,000 motorists, with about 18,700 of those in Maryland.

Whether traveling long distances or just across town, be prepared for an increase in traffic and plan accordingly.

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Police agencies will also have additional patrols as they look for aggressive and impaired drivers.

Here's wishing everyone safe travels, happy holidays and a great 2014.

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