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THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- The highest volume of travelers since 2007 is expected to travel this Thanksgiving holiday period, according to the AAA Auto Club. They’re projecting that 46.3 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home.
More than 89 percent of holiday travelers, 41.3 million, will travel by automobile, a 4.3% increase over last year. Thanksgiving air travel is also expected to be at the highest level since 2007, with 3.55 million people flying to their destinations; 3 percent more than in 2013.
Lower gasoline prices and an improved economy are cited as reasons for the larger volume. Thanksgiving fuel prices are the lowest in five years. As of Thursday, November 20, the national average price for a gallon of regular octane gasoline was $2.85, 43 cents lower than the average price of $3.28 a year ago, according to AAA.
Due to the increase in traffic volume, plan on the trip taking 25 percent longer to get to your destination, according to INRIX, a congestion tracking firm in Kirkland, Washington, that provides an annual Thanksgiving Travel Forecast. The Wednesday pre-Thanksgiving rush hour is expected to begin about two hours earlier than on a typical Wednesday. Drivers are urged to depart early to avoid delays, and steer clear of traveling between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., when the traffic is expected at a peak.
For air travelers...plan to arrive at the airport two hours before departure if traveling domestically; three if traveling internationally. Be prepared for delays and flight cancellations, depending on the weather, in the destination you're departing from, and arriving at.
“Before you think of hitting the road, make sure your car is in good running condition,” said Pat DePugh of Rusty’s Garage. “Make sure it’s prepared to be put on the road.”
An increase in travelers will create a higher safety risk. Researchers at the University of Alabama Center for Advanced Public Safety say that vehicle crashes caused by deer, alcohol and bad weather are more common during Thanksgiving week than the rest of the year.
Local AAA spokesman, Will Bamford, offered this additional advice.
“The most important thing you should have before you depart on your trip is a roadside assistance membership, so you’ll be able to get aid and back on the road safely.”
Many areas of the country are experiencing severe weather conditions, making travel by car, extremely treacherous. In addition to packing clothing suitable to the weather conditions, include a first aid kit and plenty of beverages for the total occupants in the car. For colder regions, include blankets and hot liquids.
The Texas Department of Public Safety offers this additional comment…
“The best advice is to buckle up,” states Department of Public Safety spokesperson, Trooper Erik Burse.