Travel Up, Gas Prices Down for Thanksgiving Weekend
Carolina motorists are hitting the road in record numbers this Thanksgiving weekend, and paying less per gallon of gas to travel than last year.
Prices are 9 cents lower in South Carolina and 8 cents lower in North Carolina than Thanksgiving 2005 and nearly 60 cents lower than Labor Day travel.
Auto travel is expected to be up 3 percent from last year with nearly 1.07 million North Carolinians hitting the roads this holiday.
Air travel is expected to increase 3.2 percent from last year totaling nearly 157,000 North Carolinians and 76,600 South Carolinians. They will pay an average of $7 more a ticket to total $175 on average, up from $168 last year.
Air travelers also will encounter tough security measures with many experiencing the new liquid regulations for the first time. Despite paying less at the pump, travelers will face much higher prices for hotels and car rentals, according to AAA's Leisure Travel Index. Holiday hotel rates are up 16 percent for AAA-Rated Three Diamond hotels, as strong demand allows hoteliers to increase rates that they also raised last Thanksgiving.
Expect higher rates for rental cars as well, with an average rate increase of 21 percent.
Nearly 70 percent of travelers expect to stay with friends or relatives, up from 55 percent last year.
"Thanksgiving weekend travel continues to set records," said David E. Parsons, CEO and president of AAA Carolinas. "The most dramatic change this year is the increase in people staying with friends and relatives, perhaps a sign of our times as we value our personal relationships more."
The most expensive North Carolina gas prices are found in Asheville at $2.252 for a gallon of self-serve, regular unleaded gasoline, while the cheapest is in Winston-Salem at $2.16.
In South Carolina, cheap gas prices can be found in Spartanburg at $2.042 on average. The most expensive gas prices are $2.097 in Charleston. The national average is currently $2.23 per gallon.
Crowded highways have the potential to be deadly. North Carolina's 25 highway deaths during Thanksgiving last year was the highest number since 2001, when the state recorded 28 fatalities.
The North Carolina Highway Patrol will be targeting speeders and aggressive drivers on interstates and major four-lane highways through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Operation Slow Down began Monday, Nov. 13, and will end Sunday, Nov. 26.
"I have instructed our troopers to crack down on speeders this holiday weekend; speed is the leading cause of fatal collisions on our highways," said Col. W. Fletcher Clay, commander of the State Highway Patrol. "Getting to your destination safely should be your number one goal. Don't try to cut off a few minutes of your drive time by speeding or driving aggressively. It's just not worth it."
Speed and aggressive drivers are the leading cause of traffic deaths in North Carolina, according to the Highway Patrol.
During the Thanksgiving holiday, the Highway Patrol will also be participating in the state's Booze It and Lose It anti-drunk driving campaign and the national Combined Accident Reduction Effort (Operation C.A.R.E.). Sobriety checkpoints are being held throughout the state during the entire week.
The Thanksgiving holiday weekend officially begins at 6 p.m. today and ends at midnight, Sunday, Nov. 26.
Motorists in both states can expect lanes on major roadways to remain open during the holiday weekend with all construction halted.
In North Carolina, major construction projects along interstate and U.S. routes were suspended beginning at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, continuing through 9 a.m., Monday, Nov. 27.
The N.C. Department of Transportation reminds motorists that even though workers may not be present in the majority of work zones, motorists can still encounter narrowed lanes and traffic shifts. The penalty for speeding through a marked work zone is $250.
Along with the increased number of expected air travelers come stricter rules for carry-on materials. Those unfamiliar with the new liquid rules may hold up security lines, impacting check-in times.
The new rule, called the 3-1-1 rule, allows 3-ounce or smaller containers of liquids to be transported in carry-on bags, provided the liquid containers fit inside a one-quart clear plastic zip-top bag. Only one bag is allowed per passenger.
Passengers who show up with big containers of shampoo, toothpaste, aftershave or even liquor will force security screeners to make time-consuming hand searches of bags, resulting in slower security lines.
Some airlines suggest the new rules are slowing down security screening by as much as 30 percent.
The liquids crisis began Aug. 10 when British authorities arrested more than 20 men in London believed to be plotting to blow up U.S.-bound trans-Atlantic jets using liquid explosives taken onto planes in carry-on luggage.
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