Tahlequah Daily Press

November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving traffic expected to increase

From Staff reports

TAHLEQUAH — Thanksgiving traffic is expected to increase by about 4 percent compared to last year’s holiday, according to the American Automobile Association.

Officials with AAA estimate 42.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from their homes over the holiday period from Wednesday, Nov. 23, until Sunday, Nov. 27.

Nearly 573,000 Oklahomans are expected to be among those traveling such distances, a 5.1 increase from those who traveled last year.

AAA said this would be the first time holiday travel has increased among Oklahomans this year, and that 90 percent of the travelers will do so in a motor vehicle.

“Driving AAA’s projected increase in the number of Thanksgiving travelers is pent-up demand among Oklahomans and others across the country who may have foregone holiday travel the past three years,” Chuck Mai, a spokesman for AAA, said in a press release.

“As consumers weigh the fear of economic uncertainty and the desire to create lasting family memories this holiday, more of us are choosing family and friends over frugality.”

Alice Collinsworth, communications manager for the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, said drivers and passengers should take extra precautions.

“Law enforcement officers across the state will be out in force during the holiday,” Collinsworth said. “They’ll be watching for drivers who are impaired, who are breaking the speed limit, or who are distracted, and they also will be enforcing seat-belt laws. The goal is to save lives and to make sure everyone arrives safely at their holiday destination.”

Last year in Oklahoma, 546 crashes were reported and six people were killed over the Thanksgiving holiday, she said. More than 325 people were injured, and four of the six fatalities were in alcohol-related crashes.

Collinsworth said those who plan to drink should also plan to establish a non-drinking driver.

All children in the vehicle should be placed in age-appropriate car seats, and all adults should also be buckled up.

“If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement or dial star (*) 55 from any cell phone to alert the Oklahoma Highway Patrol,” said Collinsworth.

She also suggests putting away cell phones and other electronic devices while driving.