WILKES-BARRE — Gianna Tidwell, public and government affairs manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said this week that Thanksgiving travel this year will reach near-pandemic (2019) levels — an indication that that travel demand is recovering as people flock to roads, airways and more to be with family and friends.

“As we approach some of the busiest days of the year, AAA encourages travelers to plan ahead and be patient in order to travel safely and stress-free,” Tidwell said.

AAA defines Thanksgiving as the five-day period from Wednesday, November 24th through Sunday, November 28th.

Tidwell said AAA is projecting more than 62,000 Wilkes-Barre area residents will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend — a nearly 2% increase over last year — just shy of 2019’s pre-pandemic Thanksgiving travelers.

As usual, Tidwell said the vast majority of those travelers will be going to vacation spots. AAA predicts that more than 55,000 Wilkes-Barre area residents (nearly 90% of local travelers) will hit the road, which is relatively flat (+0.8%) from last year.

AAA projects that nearly 5,900 Wilkes-Barre area residents (nearly 9% of local travelers) will travel to their Thanksgiving vacation by air, up more than 8% from last year due to the lifting of COVID-related restrictions -19.

Tidwell said the sharp recovery in travel compared to last year came in other modes of travel — cruise ships, buses and trains. AAA projects that trips on these modes of transportation will increase by more than 21% on Thanksgiving Day.

Pennsylvania Highlights

holiday travel safety

With the busy holiday driving season just around the corner, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Highway Commission gathered at the PennDOT Regional Traffic Management Center of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) in Harrisburg to to remind drivers to wear seat belts, drive sober and avoid distractions while driving as they prepare to hit the road for Thanksgiving.

Regional Traffic Management Centers across the country serve as hubs where PennDOT traffic enforcement specialists monitor a network of 1,000 traffic cameras to help keep roads open and traffic moving.

“We can all do our part to avoid crashes by always wearing a seat belt, having a sober driver assigned, and never being distracted while driving,” said PennDOT Secretary Yasmin Gramian. “We want everyone to get to their destination safely, but when accidents do happen, PennDOT and emergency responders will work quickly to help the motorists involved and keep traffic moving.”

Operation “Safe Vacation” was launched on November 14, and the mobilization of “Click or Buy a Ticket” gratitude forces continued until November 27. In an effort to keep Pennsylvania’s youngest travelers safe on the road, PSP will hold child seat installation clinics at several locations around the state.

“Child seats reduce the number of deaths and injuries in crashes, but police officers estimated that 1,200 drivers failed to secure children last year. This is unacceptable,” said Lt. Col. Jeremy Richard, deputy commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. “Parents and caregivers who visit our clinics learn how to properly install and use car seats, and our child passenger safety specialists will test your seat for recalls, all at no cost to you.”

Pennsylvania law requires all passengers under 18 to wear seat belts when riding in a vehicle, as well as drivers and front-seat passengers. Children under the age of two must be secured in a rear-facing car seat, and children under the age of four must be in an approved child seat. Children must ride in a child seat until the age of eight.

During Operation Safe Holidays, law enforcement will also conduct field sobriety checkpoints, roving patrols and regular traffic safety patrols beginning the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, and continuing through the New Year’s holiday to crack down on impaired drivers. state of alcohol intoxication.

During the 2021 holiday travel season, starting the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and ending on January 2, 2022, there were 1,276 crashes involving an impaired driver, resulting in 41 deaths, according to PennDOT data.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike expects Thanksgiving to be its busiest holiday of the year, with 3.5 million motorists traveling during the six-day period beginning Tuesday, Nov. 22, through Sunday, Nov. 27. Tuesday and Wednesday of Thanksgiving week will be the busiest travel days, so travelers should plan their trips accordingly.

“We want all travelers to be safe this holiday season,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “Holiday activities can increase our stress and fatigue levels, and this can contribute to distracted driving. Other activities that distract drivers from the road, including talking or texting on a cell phone, eating, turning their head to talk to passengers, and adjusting their controls are serious safety hazards. Avoid this while driving. And most importantly, if you are tired, it is very important to ask someone to drive or to rest before you get behind the wheel.’

The public can check conditions on more than 40,000 miles of roadway in Pennsylvania by visiting www.511PA.com.

National AAA

travel forecasts

Philadelphia-area residents’ return to Thanksgiving travel, almost pre-pandemic, mirrors national trends.

AAA predicts that about 55 million people will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 1.5% from 2021, with nearly 90% (48.7 million) hitting the road and 4.5 million travelers flying in destination for Thanksgiving, up nearly 9% from last year.

Gas prices

The national average gas price is $3.66 today, just 22 cents higher than this time last year and the highest gas prices for this time of year since 2013.

Historically, higher gas prices have not kept travelers at home. Instead, they adjust their budgets to spend less on other expenses, such as food or lodging.

Contact Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

https://www.timesleader.com/news/1587000/thanksgiving-travel-numbers-rising-to-near-pre-pandemic-levels

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