Expect dense traffic but low gas prices for Thanksgiving weekend


The number of Ohioans traveling for Thanksgiving this week will increase for the 10th year in a row as it’s estimated more than 2.2 million from the Buckeye State will hit the road over the next few days.

In total more than 54 million Americans are expected to travel more than 50 miles for the holiday, marking a 4.8 percent increase from last fall, according to AAA. That rise means the holiday weekend will bring the highest volume of Thanksgiving travel in 13 years.

With that many people on the road, traffic is expected to be pretty dense from Tuesday through Thursday and then again on Sunday when people return home, said Cindy Antrican, AAA Miami Valley manager of public and government affairs. Travel analytic company INRIX is predicting that travel times in some U.S. cities could be four times longer than they typically are on a non-holiday.

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“Things are likely to be delayed,” Antrican said. “And, it’s not going to be just relegated to the bigger cities.”

Bad weather could also slow drivers down. Inclement weather could become a spoiler for many travelers and Antrican said if snow, ice or rain hits that drivers should slow down and take precautions.

AAA is expected to “rescue” more than 360,000 drivers during Thanksgiving weekend. AAA expects it will end up responding to everything from accidents to flat tires or lock-outs, according to a press release.

Texting while driving will likely be a problem for travelers this weekend, Antrican warned. Drivers should put their electronic devices away, let a passenger navigate and try to stay focused on their trip as dense traffic can lead to some people driving more aggressively, Antrican said.

“We’re living in a society of distracted drivers,” Antrican said. “Let someone else use the phone, let someone else respond to that text from grandma. Make your focus be on driving.”

Though millions of people will take to the road this weekend, they won’t have to worry about paying high prices at the pump. Travel will only increase significantly for a day or two this week which won’t be enough to increase gas prices, said Patrick DeHaan, petroleum analyst for the website GasBuddy.

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“That’s one of the best-established, hardest to bust myths out there,” DeHaan said. “It really doesn’t have much of an impact…Once they park the car they’re probably staying there Thursday through the weekend.”

Low prices excite Leslie Phipps of Kettering who is traveling with her family to Pennsylvania for the holiday.

“Any thing to pay less at the pump is exciting. It allows you to spend money on other things,” Phipps said.

Gas prices have been steadily falling in Ohio and the Dayton area, DeHaan said, and are expected to continue declining through Thanksgiving. The lower pump prices are the direct result of around a $20 decrease in the price of oil per barrel, DeHaan said.

Gas was selling for as much as $2.59 near downtown Dayton at the end of last week and was going for as low as $2.20 in Centerville and $1.98 in Springfield. Prices willl probably settle in the low to mid $2-range, DeHaan said.

DeHaan recommended drivers fill up their tanks on the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving and should take advantage of any price they see below $2.20.

“Shop around because a lot of volatility is happening,” DeHaann said. “It makes for easy savings for the holiday.”

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