Greensboro boasts the lowest average price in North Carolina for a gallon of regular, unleaded, self-serve gasoline. The $1.72 cost is down 17 cents from Thanksgiving week, but up 32 cents from Christmas week 2003, AAA Carolinas said Monday in its annual holiday travel survey.

Nationwide, gas is averaging nearly $1.82 per gallon, down 14 cents during the past month, but about 34 cents higher than a year ago.

A relatively mild winter has helped boost fuel inventories, sending prices lower, AAA Carolinas President David Parsons said.

The lower prices arrive as more than 2.3 million motorists in North Carolina and South Carolina are expected to travel 50 or more miles away from home — an increase of 2.8 percent compared to a year ago, the motor club said.

Forty-two people died on North Carolina highways during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season in 2003.

This year has more potential for highway deaths because Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are on the weekend, which usually attracts more travelers and revelers, Parsons said.

“Holiday travel can be very dangerous on our highways if people don’t obey the laws and use common sense when they travel,” said Highway Patrol commander Col. Fletcher Clay. “We take impaired driving very seriously and urge everyone to make the right choice. Don’t drink and drive.”

State law enforcement will operate sobriety checkpoints through the holidays.

Construction will keep Interstate 40 down to one lane in each direction just east of the Tennessee state line through mile markers 1-5.

Backups can stretch 10 to 15 miles during peak travel times, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Air travel is up, with 294,000 from North Carolina and 145,000 from South Carolina expected to fly, an increase of 4.8 percent. Different fare choices are causing many travelers to take to the skies this holiday.

Cruise trips being booked by Carolina residents between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2 are 14 times greater than during the same time in 2003, said Sarah Henshall, AAA Carolinas vice president.

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