CHARLOTTE, N.C. – AAA Carolinas projects 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% over from 2016. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 22, to Sunday, 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.”
Prices are up at the pump
North Carolina's average gas price is currently $2.40 – a 32 cent increase from 2016's Thanksgiving average. This marks the highest price for the holiday in North Carolina since 2014, when the average was $2.73. South Carolina's average is currently $2.28 – a 44 cent increase from 2016.This is the highest average for Thanksgiving travel in South Carolina since 2014 when the average was $2.56.
*North Carolina's average annual gas prices each Thanksgiving Day
*South Carolina's average annual gas prices each Thanksgiving Day
Driving remains most popular mode of travel for Thanksgiving
The vast majority – close to 90 percent – of holiday travel will take place on the roads. AAA Carolinas is expecting 1.3 million North Carolinians and 630,000 South Carolinians to travel by vehicle. AAA expects about 98,000 North Carolinians to fly to their Thanksgiving holiday destinations, while 49,000 South Carolinians will travel by air. An estimated 42,000 North Carolinians and 21,000 South Carolinians will travel 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. Historically, Thanksgiving Day morning experiences the lightest traffic.
Thanksgiving eve has become a big night for binge drinking, as family and friends return home to reconnect for the holiday. Labeled “Blackout Wednesday,” many times the evening consists of over-drinking which can lead to drunk driving.
“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.”
Last year, North Carolina had 2,649 crashes over the Thanksgiving holiday resulting in 20 fatalities, while South Carolina had 1,299 crashes resulting in 16 deaths.
AAA Carolinas offers simple holiday road survival tips for motorists
- Map your route in advance and be prepared for busy roads. If possible, consider leaving earlier or later to avoid heavy traffic.
- Don't drive distracted. Put the phone away. Disconnect and Drive. Avoid behaviors such as eating, applying make-up and adjusting the navigation system.
- Keep valuables in the trunk or locked area.
- Have your roadside assistance contact information (ie:AAA) on hand in case an incident occurs on the road.
- Keep a cell phone and charger with you at all times, in case of emergency.
- Obey traffic safety laws: Wear your seatbelt. Don't speed. Drive according to the weather and road conditions.
- With an increase in traffic, expect delays and incidents on the side of the road. Obey the Move Over Law.
- Be patient. Understand that everyone is in a hurry to get to their destination. Utilize turn signals, give drivers space and avoid road rage.
Highs and Lows: Car rentals, airfare and hotel rates
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, travelers taking to the skies will pay the lowest average in five years for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes. At $157, on average, that is a 23 percent fare drop year-over-year.
Travelers can expect to spend any ‘flight savings' on car rentals. At $70/day, the daily car rental average is 34 percent more than last year and the highest rate for Thanksgiving weekend since 2013. The increase in rates may be attributed to an increase in domestic demand and cost of newer vehicles in the fleets with added features and benefits.
Travelers will pay more for AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels this holiday weekend. The average price increased by 14 percent to $176/night. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Two Diamond Rated hotels has decreased five percent with an average nightly cost of $117.
AAA will rescue thousands of motorists this Thanksgiving
Last year over the Thanksgiving holiday, AAA Carolinas rescued approximately 8,400 motorists, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. AAA recommends motorists ensure their vehicles are in peak operating condition by having it inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as an AAA Approved Auto Repair facility. Nearby locations can be found at AAA.com/Repair.
To estimate fuel costs, travelers can go to www.fuelcostcalculator.com to input starting city, destination, and the make and model of their car. The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone and Android devices uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find updated gas prices, view nearby member discounts and access AAA Roadside Assistance.
For the latest on construction delays, go to the North Carolina Department of Transportation website, www.ncdot.org or for South Carolina, go to the South Carolina DOT website, www.scdot.org.