AAA, INRIX: Drivers Should Leave Early This Thanksgiving
Traffic is expected to be up, law enforcement will be up and even gas prices are up.
And if motorists want to avoid spending the majority of their holiday stuck in traffic, two automobile related services are encouraging drivers to start their trips sooner than later.
Wednesday–The Great Escape
Not surprisingly, Wednesday is expected to be the busiest travel day of the Thanksgiving holiday.
AAA say 45% of all travelers plan on leaving Wednesday, with 36% planning on returning Sunday.
“All day Wednesday will be ‘get-away’ day with Sunday typically the return day,” says Steven Haas, veteran traffic reporter for News Radio 780. “It will probably be worse on Wednesday, with folks returning gradually, over the weekend.”
INRIX Traffic, which provides traffic information data, recently ranked Chicago fourth in their report of the nation’s busiest holiday traffic hot spots. INRIX suggests holiday travelers should hit the road no later than 2 PM.
AAA concurs with the 2 PM rule for a smoother, faster road trip. They say if you leave after 2 PM your trip will take an average 26% more time than if you left before that time.
More Cars On The Road
According to AAA, more cars will be traveling this year than last.
AAA projects 2.08 million Illinois residents will be traveling in 2012, a mild 0.6% increase over last year. Nationally, this is the fourth consecutive year of increased Thanksgiving holiday travel after a steep 25% decrease in travel nationally in 2008 when the recession was at its height.
“Thanksgiving travel hit a decade low in 2008 when only 37.8 million Americans traveled,” said AAA Chicago Regional President Brad Roeber. “Since that year we have seen a steady increase in the number of travelers taking to the roads and skies for the holiday. ”
AAA attributes the less than 1% increase in automobile travelers for the holidays to gas prices finally coming back down to somewhat normal prices and the economy a bit stronger.
Increased Traffic Enforcement
At a Tuesday morning press conference at the State of Illinois Building, Lt. Paul Riggio promised drivers the Illinois State Police will be out patrolling all state roads during the holiday and will be looking for drunk drivers and enforcing seat belt laws.
“We want to insure everyone reaches their final destination,” said Riggio. “Even one fatality is one too many to the ISP.”
Last year Riggio says the ISP made 171 DUI arrests, issued tickets to 2800 speeders, 850 safety belt violations, 40 distracted drivers and 57 instances of carrying open alcohol.
Also at the press conference, Sgt. Scott Slavin, said the Chicago Police Department is planning heavy enforcement as well this holiday.
“We will be out in full force this weekend,” said Slavin. “If you are driving drunk you will be arrested. If you’re driving without a seatbelt you be stopped and cited.”
According to IDOT eight people died on Illinois roadways last Thanksgiving weekend with 50% of the fatal crashes involving alcohol.
Gas Prices Higher Than Last Year
While fuel prices have been declining rapidly from the unexpected high this past summer and early fall, gas prices are still a bit more expensive than for this time last year.
Both AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report and gas price tracking website ChicagoGasPrices.com says the average price for unleaded gasoline in the greater Chicagoland area is around nine cents higher than Thanksgiving 2011.