Holiday traffic expected to rise

Published 6:27 pm Monday, November 19, 2018

More people are projected to be on the roads this Thanksgiving in more than a dozen years and officials are urging people to plan ahead to keep the highways and byways safe.

AAA spokesperson Clay Ingram said nearly 5 percent more people will be hitting the road this year than last, which he said was a notable rise in traffic.

“That’s an incredible amount; we usually see a 1 percent increase year over year,” Ingram said. “In all, 54 million people are expected to be traveling 50 miles or more this year.”

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Ingram said 48.5 million of those travelers will be on the roadways.

“I think that more people are just in a better situation; the average household income is up a little bit, unemployment rate down a little bit,” Ingram said. “Thanksgiving is one of those holidays we have an emotional connection to. It’s one of the only times of year many of us get to see some family members. We’re willing to sacrifice some things to be able to make that trip to spend that time with family or friends.”

One of the sacrifices Ingram said people are willing to make is spending more on gas this Thanksgiving than they have in the past four years.

“We’ve had a 23 cent-per-gallon price drop in the last month,” Ingram said. “It’s still 12 cents higher than it was last year, but most of this year gas has been 30 to 40 cents per gallon higher than last year.”

Adding to the local congestion, Ingram said the Southeast is the most heavily traveled region during the holidays.

“There are a number of football games that weekend including the Iron Bowl and shoppers are going to be out for Black Friday,” Ingram said. “Combine all that stuff and it’s going to be really busy wherever you’re going; across town or across country, it’s going to be a lot more congested than it normally is.”

To help ease the congestion, the Alabama Department of Transportation will have no temporary lane closure from Wednesday to Sunday. However, lowered speed limits and construction material may remain in place in some areas.

“Increased traffic volume on Alabama roads during Thanksgiving week often brings an increase in vehicle crash injuries and fatalities,” said Allison Green, Drive Safe Alabama coordinator with ALDOT. “Wearing a seat belt is the number one thing we can all do to stay safe on the road this holiday or any day.”

Last year, Alabama ranked in the top 10 states for highest motor vehicle deaths during the Thanksgiving holiday, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“Last year over the Thanksgiving weekend, ten people were killed needlessly on Alabama roadways,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi R. King. “Please stay safe this Thanksgiving weekend.  Make sure that if you’re traveling, you plan to drive sober or plan a sober ride.  Make sure you always wear your seatbelt and wear it properly adjusted.”

Ingram said travelers need to allow extra time for travels to avoid dangerous situations.

“If it usually takes you two hours to get somewhere, you’d better allow at least three hours,” Ingram said. “We all know that feeling of being late. That can turn into road rage and cause you to take unnecessary chances. Sit back, relax, go with the flow. You’ll be less stressful, feel better about your day, be safer and probably save money on gas by being a more conservative driver.”