Near-record travel expected for Thanksgiving holiday

Published 9:05 pm Friday, November 22, 2019

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More than 55 million travelers are making plans to kick off the holiday season with a trip of 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving. This will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000, trailing only the record set in 2005.

Troy remains a busy thoroughfare as many people travel U.S. Highway 231 towards destination spots such as Orlando and other Florida locations.

Overall, an additional 1.6 million more people will travel compared with last year, a 2.9 percent increase. The vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations and, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects Wednesday afternoon to be the worst travel period nationally, with trips taking as much as four times longer than normal in major metros.

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“Millions of thankful Americans are starting the holiday season off right with a Thanksgiving getaway,” said Clay Ingram, spokesperson for AAA Alabama. “Strong economic fundamentals are motivating Americans to venture out this holiday in near-record numbers. Consumer spending remains strong, thanks to increasing wages, disposable income and household wealth, and travel remains one of their top priorities for the holiday season.”

For the 49.3 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts major delays throughout the week, peaking Wednesday with trips taking as much four times longer as commuters mix with travelers.

“With record levels of travelers, and persistent population growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas, drivers must prepare for major delays,” said Ingram. “Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the week.”

Gas prices have been fluctuating recently, but are currently cheaper than the national average at this time last year, giving Americans a little extra money to spend on travel and motivating millions to take road trips. For the majority of Americans, AAA expects gas prices to be fairly similar to last year’s Thanksgiving holiday, which averaged $2.57. The Alabama average price is currently $2.27, which is 10 cents per gallon less than last year.

To ease Thanksgiving travel statewide and as a safety precaution, the Alabama Department of Transportation has announced that there will be no temporary lane closures for road work on Alabama interstates from noon on Wednesday, Nov. 27, through midnight, Sunday, Dec. 1.

ALDOT is urging motorists to make safety a priority, as more traffic on the road during the holiday will leave little room for error. Here are a few tips to help travelers stay safe.

• Buckle up. Alabama law now requires everyone in the vehicle to wear a seat belt, front and back seats.

• Keep right, except to pass. Drivers staying in the left lane contribute to traffic jams and crashes. Alabama law states that a driver should not drive more than a mile and a half in the left lane on the interstate without passing another vehicle.

• Drive alert. Taking a break from driving every two hours helps drivers stay alert. Drowsy driving claimed almost 800 lives in the United States in 2017.

“As so many take to the road this holiday season on family car trips, more people will be riding in the back seat of vehicles,” said Allison Green, Drive Safe Alabama coordinator with ALDOT. “Those back seat passengers, just like front seat passengers, can significantly reduce the likelihood of being injured or killed in a wreck by simply wearing a seat belt.”