Special to The Sun
Fewer Oklahomans are expected to travel this Thanksgiving, but the number is still strong: 574,700, according to the auto club AAA.
The Thanksgiving holiday is unusual because it always falls on a Thursday. Wednesday before the holiday is traditionally the busiest travel day. In Oklahoma, 90 percent of travelers will drive, a decline of 0.7 percent from last year, while 47,400 will fly, down 2.9 percent.
Nationwide, AAA projects 43.4 million Americans will travel over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a decrease of 1.5 percent from the 44 million who traveled last year.
This decrease falls just shy of last Thanksgiving’s four-year peak since the recession-driven declines in 2008-09, when Thanksgiving travel fell by 25 percent. AAA defines the Thanksgiving holiday period as running from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1.
While the economy continues to improve, the sluggish pace of the recovery is creating uncertainty in the minds of some consumers, said AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai, an Edmond resident.
“For those traveling, the good news is motorists will receive a holiday bonus in the form of cheaper gas prices, which are at their lowest levels for the holiday since 2010,” Mai said.
AAA’s digital tools for travel planning “on the go” include eTourBook guides for tablets and smartphones, available free to members at AAA.com/ebooks. More than 100 North American destinations are covered including Las Vegas, regions like Wine Country and National Parks.
The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find current gas prices and discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance. Members using the iPad version can access interactive Top Destinations travel guides for popular cities. Travelers can learn more at AAA.com/mobile.
On AAA.com, travelers can find thousands of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants using AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner or the searchable Travel Guides at AAA.com/Travel.
In case you’re wondering, the local Thanksgiving Day forecast from the National Weather Service calls for sunny skies with a high near 52. For those who will be getting behind the wheel Wednesday, the area is expected to have sunny skies with a high near 45.
While motorists are driving, law enforcement officers will be watching them.
“Thanksgiving is a busy travel holiday period and we want everyone to make it to their destination safely,” said Edmond Police Officer James Hamm. “As we do every day of the year, our officers will be out enforcing traffic laws, looking for impaired drivers and keeping our roads safe for those traveling to their holiday destinations.”
The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office is urging motorists to take extra precautions to keep drivers and passengers safe.
“While you’re making those important holiday plans, take a little time to make smart choices about your travel, too,” said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Garrett Vowell, impaired driving enforcement coordinator.
Vowell said anyone who attends a gathering where alcohol is served should plan ahead to designate a non-drinking driver. “If you’ve been drinking, don’t get behind the wheel, period,” he said. He urges drivers to be aware of the side effects of both prescription and over-the-counter medications.
The OHSO also recommends putting away the cell phone and electronic equipment while driving and getting plenty of sleep before driving.
If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement or dial *55 from any cell phone to alert the OHP, Vowell said. During the 2012 Thanksgiving period, 12 people died and 391 were injured in Oklahoma traffic crashes. Four fatalities and 44 injuries resulted from alcohol-related crashes.
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