PICKENS COUNTY — Thinking about hitting the road to meet up with family and friends this Thanksgiving? Well, according to AAA Carolinas, so is everybody else.
In fact, the agency is projecting in 2017 that 2.1 million Carolinians will journey 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving, with over 1.4 million North Carolinians and 700,000 South Carolinians traveling. This represents a 3.3 percent increase from 2016, said the agency.
The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Nov. 22 – Nov. 26.
“Despite higher gas prices this year, Carolinians are still planning to hit the roads in record-breaking numbers to spend time with family and friends this Thanksgiving,” said AAA Carolinas President and CEO Dave Parsons. “We urge everyone to practice safety behind the wheel. Don’t drink and drive, buckle up, avoid speeding and eliminate distractions.”
And he’s right, gas prices are higher.
According to AAA, S.C’s average price per gallon is $2.28 — a 44 cent increase from 2016.This represents the highest average for Thanksgiving travel in South Carolina since 2014 when the average was $2.56.
Despite the hike at the pumps, the vast majority — close to 90 percent — of holiday travel will take place on the roads. Only 49,000 S.C. residents are expected to travel by air and around 21,000 more by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses.
“Typically, the busiest days for road travel are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday following the holiday,” said a AA spokesperson. “Historically, Thanksgiving Day morning experiences the lightest traffic.”
Although known for being a time of togetherness and family, Thanksgiving has a bit of a dark side as well — specifically, the night before.
“Thanksgiving eve has become a big night for binge drinking, as family and friends return home to reconnect for the holiday,” the agency warned. “Labeled ‘Blackout Wednesday,’ many times the evening consists of over-drinking which can lead to drunk driving.”
Last year, S.C. had 1,299 crashes resulting in 16 deaths, they said.
“Blackout Wednesday, also known as ‘Drinksgiving’ rivals New Year’s Eve and Saint 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.”
To help keep motorists safe, AAA Carolinas put out some simple holiday road “survival tips.”
Map your route in advance and be prepared for busy roads. If possible, consider leaving earlier or later to avoid heavy traffic, they suggest.
Also, don’t drive distracted. That means put the phone away, disconnect and drive. Avoid behaviors such as eating, applying make-up and adjusting the navigation system too.
Keep valuables in the trunk or locked area, have your roadside assistance contact information on hand in case an incident occurs on the road and keep a cell phone and charger with you at all times, in case of emergency.
Additionally, the agency reminds all road travellers to obey traffic safety laws — wear your seat-belt, don’t speed and drive according to the weather and road conditions.
Remember to expect delays and incidents on the side of the road with an increase in traffic and to always obey the Move Over Law.
Lastly, just be patient. Understand that everyone is in a hurry to get to their destination. Utilize turn signals, give drivers space and avoid road rage.
But sometimes, even with the most prepared traveler, things can go wrong.
Last year over the Thanksgiving holiday, AAA Carolinas reported rescuing approximately 8,400 motorists, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.
To avoid missing your turkey dinner, AAA recommends drivers ensure their vehicles are in peak operating condition by having it inspected by a trusted repair shop.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.