AAA expects highest Thanksgiving holiday travel since 2005

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – AAA expects the highest number people to travel for this Thanksgiving since 2005.

You may be one of the 50.9 million Americans AAA expects to travel 50 miles or more for the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday. That’s a 3.3 percent increase from last year. 1.5 million Pennsylvanians should travel for the holiday, and that’s up 3.8 percent from 2016.

“Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful and a time to be with your friends and families,” said Doni Lee Spiegel, spokesperson for AAA Central Penn.

Most of those people are expected to be on the roadway.

“AAA is projecting 45.5 million Americans will be driving on the roads, so that’s 3.2 percent more than last year,” Spiegel said.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is also expecting heavy travel. Its spokesperson says Tuesday and Wednesday should be the most congested days with 725,000 vehicles expected both days.

The periods of heaviest traffic volumes will be:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 21, from 3 until 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 22, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 26, from noon until 8 p.m.

“You want to make sure you plan as far in advance as possible,” Spiegel said. “Have someone who’s designated to text so you won’t be distracted while driving.”

“Distracted driving is among the top reasons for crashes and fatalities on the PA Turnpike,” State Police Troop T Cpl. Holly Reber-Billings. “Any distraction that interrupts a driver’s concentration can be hazardous. At this busy time of year, when there typically are more passengers in vehicles, it’s extremely important to stay focused and pay attention to the roadway. When you turn your head to check on passengers in your car, your steering wheel often follows. Stop at a safe location to see what might be happening in the back seat.”

AAA reports gas prices are 37 cents a gallon more than last Thanksgiving, but that’s not stopping Thanksgiving travelers.

“We are experiencing a really strong economy right now,” Spiegel said. “That along with the rising labor markets, people are seeing an increase in incomes, so people are making more money. They’re more confident with their spending, so they’re more willing to put that money towards travel for Thanksgiving.”

Spiegel says the best time to drive is on Thanksgiving Day. The worst is from 4 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

“It’s best to leave early in the morning,” Spiegel said. “It gives yourself more time to get to your destination, and there’s also less people on the road.”

The largest growth in holiday travel is by air with almost four million Americans expected to fly. Airline prices are down 23 percent this year, according to AAA.

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