AAA Carolinas: Thanksgiving Travel By the Numbers

Last Updated on November 30, 2019 9:35 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – AAA Carolinas predicts that a record 2.29 million Carolinians will journey 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving, with 1.54 million North Carolinians and 750,000 South Carolinians traveling. This represents a 2.9 percent increase over 2018.The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov.27, to Sunday Dec.1.

“Ninety percent of those traveling this Thanksgiving to visit with family and friends will be doing so with a road trip,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas Traffic Safety Foundation President. “The sheer volume of vehicles on the road make this holiday such a dangerous time to travel that’s why we can’t stress enough how important it is to practice safety behind the wheel. Buckle up, don’t speed, never drive distracted or impaired.”

By the numbers

Automobiles: the vast majority of travelers – around 1.34 million North Carolinians and 678,000 South Carolinians will hit the road this Thanksgiving, nearly 2.8 percent more than last year.

Planes: The largest growth in holiday travel is by air, at 4.6 percent, with 107,700 North Carolinians and 53,300 South Carolinians flying to their destinations.

Other modes (trains, cruises and buses): 42,500 North Carolinians will use other modes of transportation to arrive at their destination along with 21,300 South Carolinians.

Nationwide, more than 55 million Americans will kick off this holiday season with a Thanksgiving trip-the most since 2005.

Lower gas prices fuel road trips Gas prices have been fluctuating as of late, but are currently cheaper than the national average at this time last year, giving Americans a little extra money to spend on travel and motivating millions to take road trips. For the majority of Carolinians, prices average about 10 cents less than last Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Traffic

The busiest days to travel are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving. If possible, AAA recommends that motorists plan their travel around these days (Thanksgiving Day is actually the best day to be on the roads).

INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predicts road trips could take as much as four times longer than normal in major metros on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

In North Carolina over the 2018 Thanksgiving holiday period (11/21/18-11/25/18) there were 3,805 crashes resulting in 22 fatalities and 1,481 injuries. In South Carolina over the same time period, there were 1,280 collision resulting in 12 fatalities and 506 injuries.

Law enforcement will be out in full force during the holiday. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol will take part in the Thanksgiving 1-40 Challenge – a joint operation among seven other states along the 1-40 corridor. Starting November 21, troopers will be placed every 20 miles along the major interstate.

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

Blackout Wednesday T

hanksgiving 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 can end with deadly consequences, so if you plan on drinking, have a plan,” added Wright. “If you don’t have a designated driver, call a friend or family member, taxi or car share service such as Uber or Lyft, to get you home safely.”

In order to stay safe on the roads late at night, AAA urges motorists to:

Never drink and drive.

Have a designated sober driver in place if you plan to drink.

Utilize a ride sharing service such as Uber, Lyft, or a taxi.

Stay off the roads the night before Thanksgiving if possible

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 (eg: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.
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