As Holiday Travelers Head Out, Safety A Priority

9:35 AM, Dec 23, 2013   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- For millions across the country, the holidays mean time with the family, but it's how many of those people will be arriving to their destinations that's a focus for those working toward road safety.

Before you head out the door, there are some small ways you can stay safe.

It's a time when the amount of travelers on the road is expected to increase. It's also when, according to AAA Carolinas, a record 1,322,000 million South Carolinians will be driving 50 miles or more on state roads.

"It's the American way," said Neil Hadaway. "You've got the freedom to go where you want, when you want to."

Hadaway said he planned to drive to Alabama with his wife and three kids for the holidays.

Many like Hadaway will be filling up gas tanks and hitting the road for trips ranging from hours to days.

Ronald Willis, Jr. drove to the Midlands from Florida on Sunday to spend time with family, and said he's glad the seven-and-a-half hour drive is over.

"I left at 6 a.m. (and) got here at about 4 p.m.," Willis, Jr. said. "It was pretty rough because it was storming the whole time."

For Willis, who is in the military, it's an experience he takes as often as he can, and said he's made the trip from Florida many times, even saying he had learned a few tricks along the way.

"I'll get some sleep, I'll prepare for it," Willis said. "I'll make sure I have my coffee and a good play list."

Traveling to meet with family is what Jennifer Gary, her mother Brenda Gary, and Jennifer Gary's 10-year-old daughter Jasaka said they planned on doing by driving to visit family in Upstate South Carolina.

"This is a time when things slow down and we have time to get together to see one another, and we can look at pictures and share stories," said Jennifer Gary.

The Richland County Sheriff's Department will be checking neighborhoods as people leave their homes,  an effort to target criminals trying to take advantage of the holidays, which is something Captain Chris Cowan, a spokesman for the department, said should be guarded against.

"Make sure that you have someone looking after your house, checking on your house," Cowan said. That includes someone getting your mail and getting your newspaper, he said. 

Cowan said another tip was "maybe having someone go in [your home] and making sure that everything is in order."

With the number of people on state roads increasing from last year, according to AAA Carolinas, Cowan said safety still comes back to the basics.

"Be a defensive driver, wearing a seat belt, making sure that you can see out of all the windows in your car," Cowan said. 

"Take your time, slow down, know the route."

The Richland County Sheriff's Department is offering to monitor your property free of charge.

For details, you can call them directly at (803) 576-3000 or visit their website at

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