There’s no place like the road for the holidays.
Almost as American as apple pie, travelling is a holiday tradition for millions across the country.
The media tends to hype air traffic troubles among the many obstacles that weary travelers must overcome on their odysseys home. Indeed, travel by air merits special attention this holiday season since new, intimate body scanners and pat-downs are anticipated to cause delays at major airports nationwide.
But don’t you be the turkey this Thursday (or Wednesday or Sunday): of the 42 million Americans who will be travelling during this 6-day travel period, 40 million people will be driving our nation’s interstates and highways.
Find that number remarkable? It is.
Approximately 91 percent of long-distance travel (that’s a trip totaling 50 miles or more) is typically journeyed by car, but this year’s estimate exceeds anything seen before. 94 percent of long-distance trips will be made in personal vehicles this Thanksgiving holiday.
“That’s the largest share of automobile travel ever, for any holiday,” said AAA’s Troy Green in an article from npr.org.
Higher gas prices this year don’t seem to be daunting drivers. A 12 percent increase in cars on the road from last year is predicted. Perhaps the fear of standing in line for body scans at airports surpasses the anxiety of driving congested highways.
So, keep in mind that you won’t be the only thing stuffed this weekend. The roads are guaranteed to be full, too. One way to dodge the bumper-to-bumper traffic is to meticulously plan your route.
Avoid interstates and state highways that have scheduled maintenance and construction projects if you can. Many roadside projects take a vacation over the heavily-travelled holidays.
The N.C. Department of Transportation states that most work on “interstate, N.C. and U.S. routes will stop at 4 p.m. Tuesday, November 23 and resume at 9 a.m. Monday, November 29,” according to an article on news-record.com.
But still, zones with reduced speeds and narrowed lanes remain in place.
Interstate 40 in Greensboro will be reduced to two lanes (in both the east and westbound directions) between Wendover Avenue and Guilford College Road.
South of Asheboro, U.S. 220 will permit only one lane of traffic in both the northbound and southbound lanes due to a project to widen the highway.
On the New River Bridge in Jacksonville, U.S. 17 Business will be reduced to two-lane, two-way traffic. In Windsor, U.S. 17 Business will be open to a single lane over the Cashie River Bridge.
In addition to these lane reductions, add thousands of cranky travelers with in-laws to stomach (on top of another heaping mound of Great Aunt Pearl’s sugar-free prune pie.) You’re sure to find hazards and delays that might make you want to reconsider waiting in those airport lines for a 15-second body scan.
Keep distractions to a minimum while driving. It’s difficult enough to predict the caprices of motorists experiencing turkey-related traumas. Don’t add texting to the trouble.
And if you’ve had too much cider, don’t drive. Stay an extra night or find a sober driver.
Another key to keep in mind if you’re driving this week is The Brick Wall Rule:
You should be far enough behind the car in front of you that if that car suddenly turned into a brick wall, you could stop before you hit it.
Even in heavy traffic, you can maintain safe following distance if you’re vigilant and patient. If someone cuts in front of you (as they’re likely to do this weekend) keep your perspective. Slow down until there’s a safe amount of space between you again. Repeat when necessary.
Better to make it over the Neuse River and through the Raleigh Beltway to Grandma’s house late than not at all, right?