AAA announced prior to the Thanksgiving travel weekend that they expect 43.6 million Americans would travel 50 miles or more from their homes during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, representing an increase of 0.7 percent on a year-over-year increase.
The latest projection marks the fourth consecutive year of increasing holiday travelers during the weekend, after travelers fell by 25 percent during the same time of year in 2008. The group expects that of the total travelers, 39.1 million of them will travel by automobile, representing a 0.6 percent increase from the same time last year. Air travel is expected to decrease by 1.7 percent, as only 3.14 million plan on flying for the weekend.
AAA estimates that gasoline will average between $3.25 and $3.40 by Thanksgiving, unchanged from last year's average of $3.32, which represented the most expensive average for gasoline ever recorded on Thanksgiving. Despite looming record-high prices for gas when compared to Thanksgivings past, gas prices have fallen nearly 40 cents a gallon since early October and should continue to fall the remainder of the year.
"Thanksgiving travel hit a decade low in 2008 when only 37.8 million Americans traveled," said Robert Darbelnet, AAA president and CEO . "Since that year we have seen a steady increase in the number of travelers taking to the roads and skies for the holiday. Americans continue to find ways to economize their budgets so they can gather around the holiday table to carve the turkey.
Darbelnet added that AAA does not know what effect Hurricane Sandy will have on travel for the Mid-Atlantic region, but expects the impact of the storm on many Americans in the region to be substantial.
AAA Michigan issued a separate report estimating that 1.34 million Michiganders will travel 50 miles or more from home for the holiday weekend.
"We continue to see an uptick in the number of Michigan residents who travel," said Steve Wagner, AAA Michigan president. "Our residents will be taking to the roads and skies – and they are savvy travelers. They continue to look for ways to economize their travel budgets so they can be with family and friends."
Of the Michigan travels, AAA expects that 98 percent of them will travel by car, down from 99 percent who traveled by car last year. The majority of travelers are planning to leave the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, while 36 percent are expected to return the following Sunday and 25 percent are expected to return the following Monday.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving also recently issued a report for the upcoming Thanksgiving travel weekend, reminding motorists to plan on having a safe ride home if they plan to drink alcohol during the holiday. MADD reported that from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day is historically the most dangerous period as far as drunk driving is considered and numbers have been increasing in recent years.
In 2008, 180 people were killed from Wednesday before Thanksgiving to the week following the holiday, representing 35 percent of highway deaths, in 2009 140 people were killed during the same period of time, representing 34 percent of highway deaths and in 2010, 174 people were killed, representing 40 percent of highway deaths.
"These numbers are very concerning to MADD because the number of people killed in drunk driving crashes over Thanksgiving is up, along with the percentage of highway deaths caused by drunk driving during the holiday period," said MADD National President Jan Withers. "Drunk driving is a complex problem, but the solution is simple: plan ahead for a sober designated driver if you're going to drink alcohol."
Before hitting the road motorists are reminded to have their fluids, brakes and engines checked.