A near record number of travelers will take to the road, rail and sky this week for Thanksgiving.
More than 55 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles over the Thanksgiving holiday from Wednesday to Sunday, the highest since 2005 when a record-setting more than 58 million people traveled, according to AAA.
About 2.3 million of this year’s travelers are Ohioans, said Kara Hitchens, spokeswoman for Miami Valley AAA.
“Consumers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth,” Hitchens said. “This is translating into more travelers kicking off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway.”
More than 2 million Ohioans will travel by car, 195,000 by plane and another 58,000 by other means.
Wednesday will be the busiest day on the road, when travel times can be delayed up to 3.5 times in major metros across the country.
“Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the week,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX.
U.S. drivers will also face some of the highest gas prices during the Thanksgiving holiday since 2014, according to Gasbuddy.com.
“Expect the national average price of gasoline to be in the $2.50s for the third straight Thanksgiving,” said Patrick DeHaan a Gasbuddy.com petroleum analyst. “Expect average gas prices to drop between now and Christmas, giving motorists something extra to be thankful for.”
Nationally, gas will likely cost about $2.56 per gallon, a penny higher than last year. Costs per gallon haven’t declined as much since October as they did during the same period last year, leading to the slightly higher price.
Because of the long drives, motorists should take the time to get their vehicles checked before heading out, said Sgt. Dallas Root with the Dayton Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol.
“This is a time when people travel to see family. A lot of times their vehicle may not be in a good position where it can make those long travels,” Root said.
Drivers should also have extra cash or a credit card in case there is an issue, a charged phone to call for help and food, water and blankets in case of a breakdown.
But the biggest advice is to wear a seat belt, Root said. There has been an “astronomical increase in fatalities” locally this year that have resulted from a lack of seat belt.
“More likely than not you’re going to survive a crash, even a very catastrophic crash, by wearing a seat belt … Especially on the interstate when you have the higher speeds…when a vehicle overturns that is the most likely time that people are going to be ejected or thrown around the interior compartment of the vehicle and that’s where a lot of significant serious injury and death occurs,” he said.
So far this year there have been 36 fatalities in Montgomery County.
Last year from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to the following Sunday, what AAA considers the holiday travel period, there were 2,637 crashes in Ohio, including 6 fatal. In 2017, there were 13 fatal accidents of 2,743 crashes, according to data from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Drivers should also be aware of distracted driving. Distracted driving on average kills 9 people and injures 1,000 every day in America, according to AAA.
Interstate 75, Ohio 48, Ohio 201 and Ohio 725 are some of the local routes with the most accidents, Root said.
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