More than 55 million travelers are making plans to kick off the holiday season with a trip of 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving. This will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000, trailing only the record set in 2005.
Overall, an additional 1.6 million more people will travel compared with last year, a 2.9% increase. The vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations and, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects Wednesday afternoon to be the worst travel period nationally, with trips taking as much at four times longer than normal in major metros.
The National Safety Council is estimating the number of fatalities from car crashes will increase by as much as 7 percent this year over Thanksgiving weekend.
As many as 421 people may be killed and another 48,500 may be seriously injured in car crashes during the Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend, from Wednesday evening to Sunday night.
More than one-third of Thanksgiving Day holiday period fatalities involve alcohol-impaired drivers.
Since the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is known for its high volumes of both travel and alcohol consumption, the council is warning drivers to be particularly vigilant at the start of the holiday period. Research shows impairment begins with the first drink.
The NSC State of Safety report encourages states to institute state sobriety checkpoints, require ignition interlocks for first-time and repeat offenders, ban open containers and automatically revoking licenses for more than 90 days for drivers with BAC levels above .08 or those who refuse to test.
Travel by the numbers:
- 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% 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% from 2018.
The American Red Cross offers the following safety tips over Thanksgiving:
- Make sure your car is in good condition for a road trip;
- Pack an emergency preparedness kit and supplies in the trunk;
- Share travel plans with a family member or friend;
- Check the weather along your route and plan for travel around any storms that may be coming;
- Be well-rested and alert;
- Buckle up, slow down, and don’t drive impaired;
- Follow the rules of the road and use caution in work zones;
- Give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones;
- Make frequent stops. During long trips, rotate drivers. If you’re too tired to drive, stop and get some rest; and
- If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible.
Other safety tips are:
- Pull over and stay with your vehicle – do not try to walk to safety;
- Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see;
- Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour;
- Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won’t back up in the car;
- Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running to help rescuers see the vehicle;
- Keep one window slightly open – away from the blowing wind – to let in air; and
- Keep the car’s gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
Public transportation and the flu:
- Everything you touch is likely touched by someone else – luggage handlers, etc – which is how germs are spread.
- Handle your own belongings.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Carry hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes with you. You can use them to wash your hands or wipe down surfaces such as armrests.
- Bring your own pillows and blankets – they can act as a shield against the seat itself.
- Avoid touching your face or eyes.
- If you have to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or your sleeve.