A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

AAA: From road trips to air travel (and all in between), it’s going to be a busy holiday weekend; be careful

Travel is a top priority this Thanksgiving for many Americans, as a growing number are expected to kick off the holiday season with a road trip or air travel.

“AAA estimates more than 55 million will travel— a 2.9 percent increase over 2018. Overall, an additional 1.6 million more people will travel compared to last year,” says Lori Weaver Hawkins, public and government affairs manager, AAA Blue Grass.

A vast majority — nearly 50 million—will be taking to the roadways. This will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000, trailing only the record-setting 58.6 million traveling in 2005. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 27 to Sunday, Dec. 1.

It’s going to be busy out there.

INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects the worst travel day is expected to be Wednesday, Nov. 27, with trips taking as much as four times longer than normal in major metros.

By the numbers: 2019 Thanksgiving travel forecast

• Automobiles: 49.3 million travelers will hit the road this Thanksgiving, the most since 2005 and 2.8% more than last year.

• Planes: With 4.6 percent growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the Thanksgiving holiday, with 4.45 million Americans expected to fly.

• Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel by other modes will reach 1.49 million, a slight increase of 1.4 percent from 2018.

Economic incentives spark holiday travel

For the nearly 50 million Americans hitting the road for the Thanksgiving holiday, they will find gas prices mostly similar, if not cheaper, than last year’s holiday. Today’s national average is $2.59. That is just a couple of cents over the 2018 holiday weekend average of $2.57 and less than prices seen earlier this fall. Kentucky is currently averaging about 8 cents more than a year ago this time but is a couple of cents lower than a month ago. 

While travelers may have seen declining gas prices the past few weeks, holiday road trippers should budget more for a rental car this year, which have reached their highest prices on record for the Thanksgiving holiday (since 1999), at $75 per day. Travelers will also pay a bit more at AAA Two Diamond hotels, where prices are 1% more than last year, or $125 per night. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Three Diamond hotels has fallen 5 percent to an average nightly cost of $158.

For those takings to the skies, a recent analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years revealed that flying the Monday before the Thanksgiving travel rush has the lowest average ticket price ($486) prior to the holiday and is a lighter travel day than later in the week. Travelers can also save by traveling on Thanksgiving Day, which has the week’s lowest average price per ticket ($454).

AAA’s travel experts remind travelers that it’s not too late to plan a last-minute Thanksgiving getaway. Visit AAA.com/Travel for travel planning resources to book your trip today.

Nothing worse than Wednesday: Times NOT to be on the road

While travel congestion is expected to peak on Wednesday, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts major delays throughout the week. “With record levels of travelers, and persistent population growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas, drivers must prepare for major delays,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the week.”

Motorists cautioned to avoid risky driving behavior

With so many taking to the roadways, AAA reminds motorists to never drive impaired, avoid distractions and slow down for roadside emergency vehicles. The combination of holiday celebrations and increased numbers hitting the roadways can result in a deadly combination during the holidays. AAA reminds motorists never to drive impaired and arrange for a safe ride before celebrating with alcoholic beverages.

Distracted driving kills an average of nine people and injures 1,000 each day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It is the third leading driver-related cause of crash fatalities behind speeding and driving under the influence. These numbers likely underestimate the problem because most drivers involved in a crash do not admit to driving distracted.

The public is invited to take the “Don’t Drive Intoxicated – Don’t Drive Intexticated” pledge.

Slow down, move over

One of the results of distracted driving is an increased risk to emergency and rescue vehicles working roadside. Traffic-related incidents continue to be one of the leading causes of death among on-duty law enforcement officers, according to NHTSA. But those risks extend to others as well, including AAA’s roadside rescue team and other emergency and public safety vehicles.

AAA tow operators respond to more than 30 million calls for help each year, working on roadside shoulders that are frequently no wider than four feet. An average of 23 tow operators are killed at the roadside every year, with one service provider on average being killed on the job at the roadside every other week. A contributing factor to this tragic statistic is that fewer than 30% of Americans even know about move-over laws. 

Given these startling statistics, AAA is recommitting its efforts to increase awareness of and support for Slow Down, Move Over laws. These laws, which are in place in all 50 states, are aimed at protecting emergency responders working along the roadside, requiring motorists to slow down and move over or change lanes, if possible, to give safe clearance. AAA reminds Thanksgiving travelers hitting the highway to be on alert for tow operators, emergency vehicles and others working at the roadside.

From AAA

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