Travel over Thanksgiving will be very busy

Published 10:24 am Wednesday, November 14, 2018

AAA Carolinas

CHARLOTTE — AAA Carolinas predicts that close to 1.5 million North Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving this holiday season – the most since 2005. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21, to Sunday, Nov. 25.

Of those traveling, 90 percent will do so by motor vehicle. With the surplus of drivers on the roads, AAA urges motorists to drive with caution and be prepared for heavy traffic.

“Despite higher gas prices than last year, we expect Carolinians to hit the road in record numbers this Thanksgiving holiday to spend time with their family and friends,” said Dave Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas.

Prices are up at the pump
Motorists can expect to pay the highest Thanksgiving prices in four years. However, we have seen prices steadily decrease throughout October and November.  The average price for gasoline in the Charlotte area is $2.51.

By the numbers
Automobiles: the vast majority of travelers – 1.36 million North Carolinians and 660,000 South Carolinians will hit the road this Thanksgiving, nearly 5 percent more than last year.

Planes: The largest growth in holiday travel is by air, at 5.4 percent, with 103,000 North Carolinians flying to their destinations.

Other modes (trains, cruises and buses): 42,000 North Carolinians will use other modes of transportation to arrive at their destination.

Thanksgiving Traffic
Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion Thanksgiving week during the early evening commute period, with travel times starting to increase on Monday.

The most popular days to travel are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving. If possible, plan your travel around these days (Thanksgiving day is the best day to be on the roads).

Over the Thanksgiving holiday period in 2017, there were 2,746 crashes in North Carolina resulting in 1,213 injuries and 23 fatalities, which is unfortunately up from the year before.

Law enforcement will be out in full force during the holiday. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol will take part in the Thanksgiving 1-40 Challenge – a joint operation among seven other states along the 1-40 corridor. Starting Nov. 21, troopers will be placed every 20 miles along the major interstate.

Blackout Wednesday 
Thanksgiving eve has become a big night for binge drinking, as family and friends return home to reconnect for the holiday. Labeled “Blackout Wednesday,” many times the evening consists of over-drinking, which can lead to drunk driving.

“Blackout Wednesday, also known as ‘Drinksgiving,’ rivals New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day,” said AAA Carolinas Traffic Safety Foundation President Tiffany Wright. “With so many ride sharing services available such as Uber and Lyft, there is no excuse for getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol.”

In order to stay safe on the roads late at night, AAA urges motorists to:
•  Never drink and drive. Have a designated sober driver in place if you plan to drink.
•  Use a ride sharing service such as Uber, Lyft, or a taxi.
•   Stay off the roads the night before Thanksgiving if possible

AAA Carolinas offers simple holiday road survival tips for motorists
• Map your route in advance and be prepared for busy roads. If possible, consider leaving earlier or later to avoid heavy traffic.
• Don’t drive distracted. Put the phone away. Disconnect and Drive. Avoid behaviors such as eating, applying make-up and adjusting the navigation system.
• Keep valuables in the trunk or locked area.
• Have your roadside assistance contact information (eg:AAA) on hand in case an incident occurs on the road.
• Keep a cell phone and charger with you at all times, in case of emergency.
• Obey traffic safety laws: Wear your seatbelt. Don’t speed. Drive according to the weather and road conditions.
• With an increase in traffic, expect delays and incidents on the side of the road. Obey the Move Over Law.
• Be patient. Understand that everyone is in a hurry to get to their destination. Utilize turn signals, give drivers space and avoid road rage.

Best Times to Fly and Book Thanksgiving Flights
An analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years revealed that the Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving are usually the most popular air travel days and have the highest average price per roundtrip ticket.

Meanwhile, Thanksgiving Day consistently has the lowest average price per ticket and is the lightest travel day. Travelers looking to save money this holiday season can fly the morning of the holiday and arrive just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Most travelers booked their flights for Thanksgiving between Sept. 23 and Oct. 25, paying an average ticket price of $478 roundtrip. Procrastinating travelers who still need to book their flights may find cheaper airfares, paying an average ticket price of $459 between now and Nov. 15. However, last-minute flight availability will likely be very limited.

AAA will rescue thousands of motorists this Thanksgiving
Last year over the Thanksgiving holiday, AAA Carolinas rescued approximately 8,400 motorists, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. AAA recommends motorists ensure their vehicles are in peak operating condition by having it inspected by a trusted repair shop.

To estimate fuel costs, travelers can go to to input starting city, destination and the make and model of their car. The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone and Android devices uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find updated gas prices, view nearby member discounts and access AAA Roadside Assistance.

For the latest on construction delays, go to the North Carolina Department of Transportation website, or for South Carolina, go to the South Carolina DOT website,