LAURINBURG — Scotland County residents may want to stay home this Thanksgiving. The number of people traveling to see family and friends this hoilday is expected to reach a 12-year high, according to AAA.
But if you do venture away from home, you will be joined by a projected 50.9 million other travelers going 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving.
Holiday travel — defined as Wednesday through Sunday — volumes will be the highest since 2005 with 1.6 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year.
“Thanksgiving kicks off the start of a busy holiday season, and more thankful Americans will travel to spend time with friends and family this year,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president. “A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry, which will continue into the holiday season.”
The vast majority of holiday travelers, almost 90 percent, will hit the open road despite gas prices at a two-year high.
“Thanksgiving has historically been one of the busiest holidays for road trips, and this year we could see record-level travel delays,” says Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”
With more North Carolinians on the road, the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program is partnering with state and local law enforcement for the Thanksgiving Click It or Ticket campaign, which runs now through Nov. 26, and reminds holiday travelers to wear their seat belts.
“Our goal with the Click It or Ticket campaign is to save lives—period.” said Mark Ezzell, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. “Thanksgiving should be a happy time, not a tragic one. We hope that this campaign reminds Thanksgiving travelers about the importance of wearing a seat belt.”
During the 2016 Thanksgiving holiday period, there were 20 fatalities in passenger vehicle crashes, and 10 of those killed were not wearing seat belts.
North Carolina law requires all passengers in a vehicle to be properly restrained. Violations are punishable by fines up to $179. The bigger cost is that ultimately you could lose your life if you are involved in a crash where you are not belted.
The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that people not wearing a seat belt in either the front or back seat of a vehicle are 30 times more likely to be ejected during a crash. Another sobering statistic estimates that in fatal crashes, more than three out of four people who are ejected die from their injuries.
“Year after year, we are devastated by stories of family members who are killed on our roadways on their way to Thanksgiving festivities,” Ezzell said. “It is unacceptable that half of all drivers and passengers killed in crashes on Thanksgiving weekend in 2016 were not wearing seat belts at the time of their fatal crash. Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways to stay safe in a vehicle.”
For those traveling around North Carolina temperatures will be in the mid-50s on Thanksgiving day with lows in the 30s. Shoppers will rejoice in temperatures in the mid-60s on Black Friday with lows in the mid-30s.